NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS: THINK BEFORE YOU INK!
BLACKS SOLICITORS’ PAUL KELLY TELLS OF HOW A TATTOO CAN INDEED PREVENT YOU FROM GETTING A JOB
Holidays allow many of us to spend precious time away from work with friends and family. We often use the opportunity to contemplate whether we are truly content with our lives, and it’s therefore not surprising that with the dawn of a New Year comes a whole host of ‘resolutions’.
Whilst some view January as the perfect time to make big life changes, such as look for a new job, break up with a partner or even get a tattoo (or do all three), are all resolutions a good idea? Or should we think before we ink?
For example, in recent years tattoos have become more socially acceptable and are often considered a form of art, with many celebrities, sports people and public figures proudly displaying their ink on a daily basis. However, despite their new acceptance in wider society, can employers refuse to hire you simply because of your tattoos? Whilst it may seem unfair, the answer is very much, yes.
Having a tattoo is not a ‘protected characteristic’, in contrast to a person’s sex, sexual orientation, race, age, gender, disability or religious belief, and therefore an employer can ‘discriminate’ against employees or job applicants who have tattoos.
Tattoos are seen as a personal choice and getting inked does not afford job seekers the protection of equality legislation. Employers are within their rights to refuse to offer employment to someone with a tattoo and have the right to set dress codes reflecting how they want you to dress or appear, although this code will vary depending on the organisation in question.
For example, many businesses will not want client-facing staff to have visible tattoos because they might conflict with their corporate image, however contrast this with the digital sector where creativity and individuality is encouraged, and having tattoos can be considered perfectly acceptable.
The media often reports on individuals who have been refused employment because of tattoos and, whilst the word ‘discrimination’ is used, they have no legal protection. Employers can even dismiss an employee because they have become visibly tattooed – provided a fair dismissal procedure is followed.
Paul Kelly, a Partner at Blacks Solicitors, comments: “It is ultimately a decision for an employer whether visible tattoos should be viewed as affecting an employee’s ability to do the job for which they are being, or were, hired. Whilst an employer may be reluctant to hire someone with visible tattoos to work in a client-facing role, there may be less concern if that employee will have no contact with the public and many are content to specify that tattoos must not be visible on the hands, neck or face, but tattoos considered offensive are unacceptable, whether visible or not.
However, that being said, an employee may have tattoos for religious reasons – and are therefore protected from discrimination if they can demonstrate that the tattoo is connected with the expression of their religious belief.”
It is unlikely that general tattoos will fall within the remit of the Equality Act any time soon (if ever) and so the best advice for those who want a tattoo remains, “think before you ink”!
If you feel that you have been unfairly discriminated against for any reason, please contact Paul Kelly via email PKelly@LawBlacks.com or reach him on 0113 227 9249 for a free no obligation discussion. Alternatively visit www.LawBlacks.com.