Employers with Negative Attitude to Tattoos Could Miss out on Talent

3 mins

Posted on 21 Sep 2016

Acas has published research on dress codes which shows that employers risk losing talented young employees due to concerns about employing people with visible tattoos. The study revealed that almost one in three young people have a tattoo. 

Other findings from the study revealed that:

  • negative attitudes towards tattoos and piercings from managers and employees can influence the outcome of recruitment exercises within some workplaces;
  • some public sector workers felt that people would not have confidence in the professionalism of a person with a visible tattoo; and
  • some private sector employers, from law firms to removal companies, all raised concerns about visible tattoos in relation to perceived negative attitudes of potential clients or customers.

Acas has updated its guidance in the light of the research and recent developments in this area:

  • Following the recent case of a temporary worker who was sent home without pay for refusing to wear high heels at work, Acas' revised advice is clear that any dress code should not be stricter, or lead to a detriment, for one gender over the other;
  • An employer's dress code must not be discriminatory in respect of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 for age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation;
  • Employers may adopt a more casual approach to dress during the summer, but this may depend on the type of business; and
  • It is good practice when drafting or updating a dress code for an employer to consider the reasoning behind it. Consulting with employees over any proposed dress code may ensure that the code is acceptable to both the organisation and employees.

The full Acas guidance can be accessed here together with the research report Dress codes and appearance at work: Body supplements, body modification and aesthetic labour.


With the increasing number of people getting tattoos, the question of what is acceptable is coming more sharply into focus. Many employers are becoming increasingly flexible towards their employees having visible tattoos at work, although attitudes still vary significantly in different industries and sectors. Whatever an employer’s approach towards the subject, it is sensible to adopt a suitable policy and make clear what is and is not acceptable. For employers which allow employees to display tattoos at work, it is important to be clear in any policy that the tattoos must not be in any way discriminatory or otherwise offensive. As always, the clearer an employer is with its staff as to its policy the less likely it is to have issues.

The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.

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