Tattoos stir strong feelings. Last year journalist Bill Borrows wrote in The Telegraph that tattoos are: “ugly and utterly pointless. How have we come to believe that tacky sentiments or lazy quotes inked indelibly into a man's skin are the sign of a profound and interesting person?”
It wasn’t so long ago that tattoos were the trademarks of the hell raiser. Bikers, punks and others sported tattoos defiantly. But they’ve become positively suburban since their popularisation in the 1990s. What once made tattoos cool is often poorly done, sometimes tasteless and generally overexposed.
But overdone though they are, around one in five people are thought to have one and they’re most popular among 30 to 39 year olds. Some choose to have them in places where they can’t be seen and others have them in full view.
In August the Police Federation of England and Wales have said they believe that the ban on visible tattoos should be lifted. Currently police officers are not allowed to have tattoos on their hands, neck and face. This ban has been live since the Met Police banned visible tattoos in 2012. The Federation believe that the ban is hindering the recruitment of promising candidates.
Home Office guidance on tattoos for police officers states that candidates with any visible tattoos or facial piercings ‘may be eligible for appointment’ and each case will be dealt with individually’.
The Police Federation wants to take a more modern and consistent approach to tattoos throughout the police force. The intention is to embrace diversity and widen the talent pool from which it recruits, enabling it to reflect current society more fully.
Predictably, the suggestion has been met with a lot of criticism. Robert Peel might well be spinning in his grave. A police uniform is there partly for visibility, partly for authority and partly for protection.
Tattoos are subjective and your workplace dress code rules must be fair and appropriate to the nature of the business. Just because a candidate has tattoos doesn’t mean he or she can’t do the job.
Tattoos may be fashionable but it doesn’t make them professional. If you feel that tattoos are not in line with the ethos of your business you can ask your employees to cover their tattoos whilst they’re at work. It is not illegal to ban tattoos (not at present anyway). ACAS suggests the following approach.
Employers may wish to promote a certain image through their workers which they believe reflects the ethos of their organisations. Sometimes this can mean that they ask workers to remove piercings or cover tattoos while at work, especially when dealing with customers. If an employer does decide to adopt a dress code or appearance code it should be written down in a policy which should be communicated to all staff so they understand what standards are expected from them. Some employers have started to reconsider their strict "no tattoo" policies following media reports and online petitions.
Visible tattoos are not part of our dress code and my team covers them up with watches and clothes. You wouldn’t even know they had them.
We deal with the good, the bad and the ugly of HR. If you need help resolving problems with tattooed employees or any other HR issues, give us a call on 01908 262628.
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