Written by ELOISE L'HEUREUX

As the number of people using their bodies as an artistic canvas increases, it opens up many questions around the acceptability of tattoos in the workplace. We discuss in more detail how the taboo of inked skin is changing and the impact it can have on your business.

There can often be negative stereotypes around people with tattoos and it’s important to take an objective view, weighing up the positive impact having a relaxed view towards tattooed employees can have, against the implications if it doesn’t fit with your company image.

Are tattoos acceptable in the workplace?

For years tattoos have been perceived as unprofessional, distracting and not suitable in a professional environment but gradually many companies are recognising the benefits a relaxed dress code can bring to their business, and are therefore allowing their employees to showcase their tattoos as long as they are not offensive. A recent survey from Insights for Professionals showed that around 520,600 companies have changed their dress code to allow their staff to have visible tattoos –the perception of tattoos is changing amongst employers and there is more appreciation for the fact that having a visible tattoo doesn’t mean that your employee would be any less qualified or hard-working.

Here are some examples of how allowing tattoos to be freely displayed could positively impact your business:

  • A tattoo could be making your employee feel more confident as its part of their identity.
  • If you value the individuality and character of your employees then you are more likely to have a workforce that values your company and culture. This could then potentially lead to strong employee retention.
  • Consider your industry and the positive impact allowing tattoos could have. Creative arts, music, acting, design fields are all some professions positively impacted.

Equally, when thinking about your employees having visible tattoos, you need to consider the impact it will have on your business and whether it could lead to more or less customers, the affect it could have on your turnover and your staff retention figures too. Ultimately it’s important you ask yourself the question – if I allow my employees to visibly display their tattoos will it result in a negative perception of my company?

Here are some examples of how not allowing your employees to display tattoos could impact your business:

  • Tattoo discrimination could see you missing out on new talent to your business.
  • If you ask an employee to hide their tattoo and they feel it is a part of their identity then you need to consider that your employee could be left feeling uncomfortable and they may be tempted to leave.
  • It is becoming more common for candidates to decline a job offer if they feel the restrictions around tattoos and piercings are too strict.

Where does an employer stand if they want to prohibit tattoos and piercings?

Allowing tattoos and piercings at work doesn’t mean you have to accept any that are deemed inappropriate or offensive as part of your professional business attire. The laws support employer dress codes in general and employers have the flexibility in creating a dress code policy that requires their employees to present themselves in a way that is reflective of their company image.

Should I implement a dress code policy?

A dress code policy could be worth considering if you work in an industry where image is highly regarded or where your employees have extensive face-to-face contact with your customers. Equally, if your employees have no external contact with customers and you are happy for them to be more casually dressed it’s worth considering the acceptability of ‘how casual’ and define clear guidelines to avoid any confusion.

The things we would consider when creating a dress code policy would be your business and its public image, safety standards, and ensuring the requirements do not discriminate.

Setting out some basic guidance that clearly outline your expectations can ensure everyone understands your requirements. If you are interested in implementing or amending an existing dress code policy, then please get in touch as we can work with you to create a policy that is bespoke and suitable for you and your business please email us at: info@realityhr.co.uk or call: 01256 328 438