21 September 2016

Employers warned to change ‘outdated’ tattoo policies

ACAS warns employers they're shooting themselves in the foot by rejecting bright candidates with tattoos, which are now the norm amongst young people.
tattoos at workCredit: JM3 – Flickr
ACAS, a government-run advisory board for employers and employees, has spoken out about what they deem as ‘outdated’ policies regarding visible tattoos in the workplace.

A YouGov poll last year found that nearly one in five young people in the UK now have a tattoo (as much as 13% of people under the age of 24) and nearly 50% say they’ve considered getting one.

So as tattoos increasingly become the norm amongst young people, is it time that businesses got with the times and stopped associating body modification with sadists and criminals?

You can be pretty sure that these awesome jobs won't care if you've got tattoos or not!

What the experts say

job interview tattoosDr Andrew Timming at St. Andrews University has been researching attitudes towards tattoos during hiring processes, and says he thinks the way employees view potential candidates with visible tattoos will soon have to change.

He told the BBC:

There's a tidal wave of young people with tattoos these days and they're not always going to be young. Employers are going to have to accept that they're integral to the fabric of society and accept that they may potentially have a place at work.

Dr Timming claims a lot of businesses – particularly in marketing and creative industries – now even consider tattoos an asset, as they can be a sign of original thinking and creativity.

Risky business

tattoo in the workplaceAlthough tattoos have become extremely fashionable in recent years, the danger is that fashions change, tastes change, and circumstances change too (regretting that tatt of your ex's name on your butt yet?).

According to YoungGov’s poll, as much as 11% of under 24s with tattoos say they’ve regretted their decision to get a tattoo, or regretted the design they went for.

One Senior Manager with the emergency services told ACAS they turned down a candidate on account of a tattoo on her head, explaining:

Well how stupid are you, at what point did you think a tattoo on your head was going to be acceptable?

However, ACAS thinks businesses are taking a big risk nowadays by rejecting candidates on account of visible tattoos – they could be missing out on some of the best talent the UK has to offer, and could stifle diversity in the workplace.

Stephen Williams, head of equality at Acas, said:

Whilst it remains a legitimate business decision, a dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers.

We know that employers with a diverse workforce can reap many business benefits as they can tap into the knowledge and skills of staff from a wide range of backgrounds.

Got an job interview coming up? Our interview guide will help you pull together answers that will blow them away!

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One Response to “Employers warned to change ‘outdated’ tattoo policies”

  1. John Appleseed

    21. Sep, 2016

    I run a business where attention to detail and professionalism is key. We very rarely employ people with visible tattoos because of what it tells me about them and their attitude towards the ideals we hold. It’s well known that tattoos are a hinderance in the workplace. This tells me that someone who gets them anyway is either arrogant in thinking that they’ll have no problems or an exception will be made for them, or that they lack the forward thinking to forsee that this could be a problem, or to plan for the future. Often, if they have several tattoos, or they tell me that they have recent visible tattoos even after having problems, it shows an inability or an unwillingness to recognise and acknowledge mistakes and take ownership of them, something that is key in our business. Often, when asked about them, I get replies that are incredibly self centred and / or slightly narcissistic, and often people that think that social norms or expectations shouldn’t apply to them and that they can do what they want and there should not be consequences. This is not an attitude that works in my business. Not only do we face clients and have to present ourselves well, manage expectations and know the signals that what we do send, but we also have a strong culture of teamwork that cannot be ruined by people who are all me-me-me.
    Lastly, in many cases, the quality of the design and the tattoo simply isn’t high. This shows a lack of respect and due diligence for research before work is sought from a supplier and it shows that they don’t have respect for high quality well designed work or a job well done. Imagine if they took the same pick crap off the shelf of the first supplier attitude to components in our products as they do for something they’ll personally live with forever.

    This isn’t to say we never, ever employ someone with visible tattoos. We interview every candidate and if we can see them we have a long and hard conversation about them. Sometimes, people are very sensible about them, sometimes we even pay for their removal, sometimes, people come in with genuine high-quality ink with very good reasoning. We employ people with tattoos. But If someone comes in to an interview with me with a visible scratcher they don’t regret, then I won’t regret saying bye bye.


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