Employers could be missing out on talented tattooed staff

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Employers' concerns about tattoos and piercings could mean they turn down suitable job candidates, leading law firm Blake Morgan has warned.

The warning from the firm’s employment specialists comes as new research from the conciliation service ACAS has revealed that negative attitudes towards tattoos could result in employers missing out on talented young workers.

ACAS said employers should be thinking about relaxing dress codes in general.

It is estimated that about one in five of the UK adult population is tattooed and this figure rises to one in three for young adults. Attitudes to tattoos vary across different employment sectors and have changed over time, explains employment partner Matthew Smith.

Matthew says: “Staff are an important and expensive asset. The aim of successful recruitment is to find the best person for the role in question taking into account their skills, experience, qualities and potential.

“Employers' concerns about visible tattoos often relate to how potential clients or customers would view the individual and their perceived ‘professionalism’.

“Whether or not tattoos will be a barrier to recruitment will depend on the role and employer involved while visible tattoos may still not go down very well at some professional service firms, there may not be any concerns at others or in sectors such as the creative industries or in hospitality. For example, if staff are working in bars and nightclubs, many people there are likely to have visible tattoos.”

Matthew also advises organisations to adopt clear and carefully considered dress or appearance codes.

He  said: “Although employers can put in place dress codes and uniform policies because they require a high standard of personal appearance, such as in the retail sector or for health and safety reasons in hospitals, dress codes need to be drafted with care to avoid unlawful discrimination occurring.

“Restrictions on jewellery, for example, may impact on an individual’s right to manifest their religion or belief and justification of the dress code in those cases will be crucial.

“It's always a good idea to consider whether there is a real organisational need or health and safety reason for the requirements in the dress code and this is true too of an organisation's policy on visible tattoos.

“It is also essential to ensure that the recruitment process is carried out free from discrimination and conscious or unconscious bias. This ensures that the successful candidate is chosen on merit.”

The Blake Morgan employment team, comprising more than 40 specialist lawyers, provides a top ranked employment law service throughout the country supporting national and international clients in all aspects of employment law.