number of people with (visible) tattoos seems to be on the up. With the
likes of Cheryl Cole, David Beckham
and Samantha Cameron all sporting obvious tattoos, it is hardly surprising that
they have become more popular.
their increased prevalence and popularity, some employers still consider them
‘unsightly’ and even ‘unsavoury’, and are of the view they create a negative
perception to customers and clients.
what rights do employers have when it comes to hiring a person who has a
visible tattoo or piercing? What can be done about existing
employees who decide to update their look with a new piercing or tattoo?
the law stands, there is no free standing protection for employees against
being dismissed because they have a tattoo or piercing. The Equality Act
2010 (which is the main legislation offering protection from discrimination)
does not provide any direct protection in this regard. Save for a scenario where
a tattoo or piercing was connected to a person’s religion or belief (thus
giving rise to a potential claim for discrimination), employers would be within
their rights to dismiss or not offer employment on this basis.
said, employers must be more cautious when dealing with employees who have two
years’ service or more, as these employees have a right not to be unfairly
dismissed. In this scenario, it would be necessary for an employer to
have a fair reason to dismiss and to have followed a fair process before doing
a clear dress code policy in place that addresses the employer’s position on
tattoos and piercings and in particular sets out the standpoint on visible
tattoos and piercings (ideally distinguishing between customer facing and back
office roles) will certainly help make a case that there are fair business
grounds for any such dismissal. Furthermore, employers should ensure that
their dress code policy has a justifiable business rationale and does not
discriminate against specific groups (i.e. religious groups). To ensure
the company does not fall foul of the Equality Act 2010, consider an individual
employee’s reason for getting a tattoo or piercing and be willing to adjust you