Accessability Links

Body art - An indication of incompetence?

Posted by
02 Nov 2016

A recent article on ‘The Recruiter’ discussed the issue surrounding tattoos, the workplace, and the law that is or isn’t in place surrounding them. I am genuinely shocked that in this day and age, the decision to hire somebody or not could be based on whether they have a visible tattoo or piercing. Is society still that critical of body art, and do we still consider someone to be less suitable or worse at their job if they have visible tattoos and piercings?

The article stated that: “Research from workplace experts Acas, released this week, has revealed negative attitudes towards tattoos and piercing from managers and employees can influence the outcome of recruitment exercises within some workplace. With almost one in three young people having a tattoo, Acas warned that employers risk missing out on this talent pool due to out of date dress codes”.

The above seems archaic. It is bemusing to think that an organisation would not hire someone, who was the best candidate for the job, if they had a nose piercing, or a visible tattoo. What difference does it make? Why are they then not considered suitable? 

And yet, those that are discriminated against due to having tattoos and piercing have absolutely no legal protection. In the same article, Dr Sybille Steiner (Solicitor) commented that:
 “There are currently no laws that prohibit discrimination against people with visible tattoos or body piercings. Although efforts have been made to make body art a protected class under the Equality Act, such efforts have thus far been unsuccessful”.

Employers seem to be able to regulate their position on tattoos and piercings through dress code policies without causing offence/direct discrimination. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a change does come about soon which means that those who feel as though they are being discrimination due to tattoos will be protected by the equality act.

It is understandable that in the past tattoos and piercings have had some negative associations, such as gang identity, criminal affiliations, racist connotations etc. However, whilst that is no doubt still in existence, our attitudes have to change. Employers cannot continue to hide behind a dress code policy, which seems to be hit and miss anyway. For instance, over the last few years beards have become incredibly fashionable and very popular amongst working men, but if you were to look at a considerable amount of dress code policies, it is highly likely it would say that men have to be clean shaven. If someone has a beard, are they considered unprofessional? 

Having spoken to my colleagues to find out their attitudes towards this, there is a real mixture of answers. From some being completely nonchalant on the matter to others thinking that if they interviewed someone with numerous piercing they might be put off, to thinking that if they were attending a client meeting they would make sure they took their piercings out. For me, as long as the nature of the tattoos/piercings isn’t offensive, I am not affected by it at all and it most definitely wouldn’t influence whether or not someone is right for a role. 

What do you think?  Do you take your piercings out before an interview? Would you think less of someone who had a tattoo on their hand? Or on the flip side, so you have employees who are able to show their tattoos and piercings without worry about discrimination? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below

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