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Are you worried about how your tattoo will affect your job prospects? 

Our societies are changing as rapidly as the world around us. Attitudes, beliefs, and values are very different today compared to 100 years ago. We have a lot more freedom to choose the lifestyle we prefer.  We no longer need to conform to dated traditions and norms.

As an interview coach, I’m regularly asked whether tattoos will be a problem when looking for a job.

There are mixed views and opinions about tattoos.  And, this is understandable considering our demographics. 

For the first time in modern history, we are working alongside 5 generations. It often comes down to personal preference rather than company policy or the law.

  • iGen aka Generation Z: born 1996 and after
  • Millennials aka Generation Y: born 1977 to 1995
  • Generation X: born 1965 to 1976
  • Baby Boomers: born 1946 to 1964
  • Traditionalists: born 1945 and before

However, organizations will be narrowing down their talent pool if they hold on to dated views.

*Please note, this article has been updated as there have been significant changes to the Met-Police policy on Tattoos.  

Discrimination

Having a tattoo is not protected under Employment Law.  It isn’t one of the Protected Characteristics.  Businesses have the right to make decisions about appearances and dress codes. These decisions should be based on the company policy and comply with the law.

Despite the fact tattoos have been around for decades they are particularly on-trend with the millennial generation. It’s a form of expression, identity, and individuality.

If companies shy away from hiring individuals just because they have a tattoo then they are missing out on potential talent for their businesses. It could even be a form of indirect age discrimination given that a third of young people now have a tattoo.  And, a significant 1.5 million people in Britain get a tattoo every year.

However, if you have a tattoo that expresses a controversial opinion or is perceived as violent or discriminatory then you are unlikely to be hired into certain organizations.

It will also increase the risk of being rejected if you have visible tattoos on your face, neck, or hands. My regular followers will know I talk about the importance of being aligned with the company’s values, ethos, and operating principles – Company Culture.

Considering a career in the Police?

If you are considering joining the police force here’s the viewpoint of the Met Police and Kent Police. The Met Police: The Met Police are very clear on their tolerance of tattoos.

However, they updated their policy in 2018 and admit it’s significantly different from the previous policy.  So, if you were not eligible to work with the Met Police in the past because of your tattoos, you may now be able to work for them.

Some tattoos will stop you from working for the Met: 

  • Tattoos on the sides and front of your neck above the collar line
  • On your face

You will be allowed to work for the Met if you have tattoos:

  • Hands 
  • Back of your neck
  • Below your collar line
  • On your ears
  • Behind your ears

In the policy, they have also stated that there may be times when they require you to cover up these tattoos for policing events such as state funerals or ceremonial events. 

Regardless of the position of your tattoos, you will not be allowed to join the Met if any of the tattoos could be considered:

  • discriminatory
  • offensive
  • violent
  • rude
  • lewd
  • crude
  • racist
  • sexist
  • sectarian
  • homophobic
  • intimidating
  • political in nature

Tattoos like this aren’t compatible with the values of the Met.  If you have larger visible tattoos on your hands or back of the neck that cannot be easily covered or are not discreet, then this could still be disqualified during the recruitment process. Decisions regarding the appropriateness of tattoos are made at the sole discretion of the Met.

Kent police also have a policy specifically highlighting their views on tattoos.  

Visible tattoos are deemed unacceptable if they could reasonably be interpreted as:

  • discriminatory
  • offensive
  • indicate of attitudes or views which are inconsistent with the College of Policing’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Behaviour.

Tattoos meeting any of the above criteria will prevent you from being able to join Kent Police.

Careful consideration will be given to any tattoo located on the neck, face, or hands in deciding if this is acceptable. This includes consideration of the size, nature, and prominence of the tattoo.

Such tattoos are unlikely to present a professional image such that they will, more often than not, also be a bar to joining Kent Police.

If you have a tattoo on your face, neck (above your collar line), and hands we’ll need to see it so we can make a decision on whether or not you can continue with your application.

Reflecting communities

A good company will understand, appreciate, and commit to building a diverse workforce. That is a workforce that reflects their clients and the wider community.

Companies that are good at managing diversity and inclusion will focus on the breadth of experiences individuals can bring to the organization.

  • Skills (hard and soft)
  • Experiences
  • Knowledge
  • Technical and behavioural competencies
  • Beliefs, values, opinions, and views
  • Backgrounds (economic and social etc.)

They also want to build businesses that reflect their clients and communities. ACAS believes companies need to change their attitudes about tattoos and relax their dress codes.

“Businesses are perfectly within their right to have rules around appearance at work but these rules should be based on the law where appropriate, and the needs of the business, not managers’ personal preferences,” Stephen Williams, Acas Head of Equality.

Final Viewpoint 

Be aware that there are some strong opinions. Everyone has the right to have personal opinions and preferences. The risk is when we allow our personal preferences to make business decisions that violate the law.  There is also a risk of missing out on talented individuals.

Research the job market before deciding to get a tattoo.  It’s worth giving your future career options for serious consideration. It might help you think about where and what you have permanently inked on your skin. Visit this article by the Independent: Tattoo Discrimination could see companies missing out on young talent.

About Dawn Moss

Dawn has worked in a corporate environment for over ten years providing Recruitment & Selection Services, and has been involved in Coaching & Educating Business Leaders, Managers and Employees in all aspects of the recruitment process.

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