Tattoo hands

Employers have been warned by workplace experts that they are missing out on young talented workers by rejecting candidates who have tattoos.

Despite almost one in three 16 to 44-year-olds having tattoos, they are still considered to be unacceptable in many workplaces who have dress code policies in place, according to new research.

Although dress codes allow companies to set standards in relation to workplace culture, only 41% of organisations surveyed allowed tattoos and piercings, said conciliation service Acas.

The independent research, carried out at King’s College, London, suggested that employers could be missing out on a large amount of potential recruits due to the amount of young people who have tattoos.

The Acas report said that individuals with visible tattoos faced stigma and were stereotypes within particular organisational context, especially within more traditional firms.

Stephen Williams, head of equality, Acas, said: “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.”

The responses from the 33 anonymous individuals including managers and employees highlighted how appearances were important across a number of sectors and tattoos could be a drawback to hiring in their company.

Some of the responses said: “I know that a lot of people would feel uncomfortable, a lot of older people would feel uncomfortable [interacting with employees sporting tattoos] (Employee, University student support services).

“From a legal perspective we have to be identifiable to general members of the public…..so a lot that we wear [identifies us] just to remove any doubt” (Staff member, Emergency Services).

“You have to put on a professional image that is obviously linked to how you look too”. (Senior HR manager, Railways).

Acas said that any dress code should not be stricter for one gender over the other, and suggested employers adopt a more casual approach to dress code during the summer months, depending on th type of business.

Mr Williams added: “We know that employers with a diverse workforce can reap many business benefits as they can tap into the knowledge and skills of staff from a wide range of backgrounds.

“Almost a third of young people now have tattoos so, whilst it remains a legitimate business decision, a dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers.”