Tattoos have become increasingly fashionable in recent years, with many individuals having, or contemplating, a permanent etching on their skin.
In the not so distant past, a tattoo was a taboo and rebellious act but tattoos have become more acceptable in today’s society due to celebrities such as David Beckham and Angelina Jolie proudly displaying their intricate art work.
But what of normal working people who similarly wish to show off their own personal inking. Is it acceptable to have visible tattoos in the workplace?
Despite increased social acceptability, it is still the case that in the majority of workplaces, tattoos are not acceptable and have to be covered up.
Many people would be surprised to know that an individual with tattoos does not have any additional protection against discrimination and an employer can dismiss an existing employee or refuse to hire an individual due to visible tattoos. The Equality Act 2010 protects those with a severe disfigurement from discrimination, however, the act specifically excludes a deliberately acquired disfigurement which includes tattoos and piercings (The Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010).
If the tattoo is offensive, for example, an individual has a tattoo of a swastika on his hand that is highly visible, then there is a clearer case to justify an employer’s right to dismiss or not hire. However, the matter becomes more complex when the tattoo is not offensive and can be covered.
Should an employee be afforded additional protection against discrimination?
Recently there have been two cases that have reached the headlines involving dismissals due to tattoos.
Jo Perkins was dismissed from Salisbury FM due to a 4cm tattoo of a butterfly on her foot which was visible when she wore a dress at work. Jo had been working for the company for 5 months before they introduced a dress code policy which stipulated that tattoos should not be visible. Jo struggled to fully cover her tattoo and was dismissed despite being a highly qualified and experienced consultant.
Sean Green hit the headlines because he made the decision to get the lower half of his face tattooed. Although Sean is very positive about his transformation, his future employment prospects have been compromised as only 30 mins into his shift after having the tattoo, he was informed that he would no longer be considered for a promotion due to the bold new tattoo.
In both of the above cases, the tattoos did not impact on employee’s ability to do their jobs but the companies involved sent a clear message that tattoos did not form part of the company image they wished to convey to their clients and customers.
As it stands, if an employer decides to dismiss, refuse to hire or promote an individual due to their tattoos, it is not considered discriminatory.
At present the law only protects a limited number of characteristics and it remains to be seen whether the law is going to continue to add to these.
If you would like more information on discrimination or believe that you have been discriminated against, you can find more information on our workplace discrimination page.
Sexual Orientation and Asexuals
Pride in London is due to take place from 10 June to 26 June 2016, and our discrimination legislation has come a long way to protect the rights of those who face prejudice due to their sexual orientation.
Sexual orientation is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and is defined as a person’s sexual orientation towards, persons of the same sex, opposite sex or persons of either sex providing protection for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and heterosexuals. Specific protection is also afforded separately to transsexuals
The definition does not include particular sexual practices, celibacy or preferences for particular types of sexual activity.
A category of sexual orientation that the Act does not cover is the growing movement of asexuality.
Asexuals are individuals who do not experience sexual attraction. The term ‘asexual’ has become more common over the last decade but there is still limited recognition, understanding and awareness of the orientation and the prejudices someone who identifies themselves as asexual faces.
Support and campaign groups have now been set up to focus on the recognition of asexual individuals or ‘aces’. Their aims are to raise awareness, promote the challenges faced by an asexual person and to cement their rights in our legal system, which may require further amendment to the Equality Act 2010.
Further Information on Discrimination in the Workplace
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