Should employers discriminate against tattoos?

Published on: Sat 8 October 2016 by Admin

Tattoos are now very much ‘the mainstream’ in the UK. 1 in 5 Brits possess at least one tattoo and that figure rises to 1 in 3 for young adults.

Tattoos traverse all classes meaning British streets are thronged with tribal sleeves, inspirational quotes and, sometimes, thought-provoking symbology.

Carole Nash, a Motorbike insurance broker, looked into the most tattooed cities in the UK. Their findings and the percentages revealed are quite staggering.

UK’s Most Tattooed Cities*:

Birmingham – 48%                           Norwich – 41%                                 Glasgow – 40%

Sheffield – 36%                                 Bradford – 36%                                 Aberdeen – 23%

Liverpool – 22%                                 Cardiff – 20%                                   Nottingham – 19%

*Percentage of survey respondents who said were tattooed and have more than 6 tattoos on their body.

Currently there are no anti-discriminatory laws regarding body art but, with a rapidly growing inked populous, maybe it is time for change?

The Negative Perception

Tattoos can bring with them a certain stigma as many employers still deem them to be a mark of unprofessionalism.‘s research shows that a 37% of HR managers cite tattoos as the third-most-likely physical attribute to limit career potential and 43% of people feel that visible tattoos are inappropriate at work.

There is still some logic to this impropriety when it comes to customer facing roles. The journal of retailing services show that consumers have a negative reaction to body art on front line staff.

Refreshingly, this writer’s boss who is of the relatively older generation said:

“You can see why some have an issue but I wouldn’t care if someone had ‘death’ plastered on their forehead. If anything, it would be a great talking point and would make that person more memorable. The only thing that matters to me is the quality of that employee.”

Location, Location, Location… but also what have you had permanently sketched on you?

Obviously, face, neck and head tattoos will bring about the most attention as there are no hiding them in any office attire. To many, these types of tattoos can come across as abrasive and evoke a certain shock factor.

However, it’s not just the location of the tattoo that matters but the content of the body art.

A brilliant piece of art, be it an elegant floral piece or intricate limb wrapping dragon design is far more understandable than having “Ayia Napa 2010” or a profanity in a visible position.

Drunken mistakes or curse words don’t exactly scream professionalism or rationality regardless of how exceptional you are as a candidate.

Should there be anti-discrimination laws

Undoubtedly, as the generational shift occurs, a tattoo in a professional environment will become less of an issue.

At this current point in time however, this discrimination means that both employees and employers will suffer.

Employees are missing out on paid work due to their choice of unleashing their creative side whilst employers may be rejecting the best people for positions due to outdated viewpoints.

Under the equality act there are nine characteristics under protection: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

Seeing as the population of individuals with tattoos surpasses many of the aforementioned characteristics, maybe it is time for a new law.