Tattoo hands

Following a number of recent cases concerning employees being dismissed as a result of their appearance, how far businesses can dictate how their staff present themselves?

Tattoos at work, piercings and dyed hair are increasingly common, but there have been several cases of people being dismissed by their employers because of them. One high profile case involved a Police Officer being dismissed as a result of dying her hair and another involved British Airways banning visible jewellery. Most businesses will want their employees to present themselves in a way that portrays a particular image. For staff in public-facing roles, this is particularly important. One major airline, for example, specifies in its recruitment literature that members of its cabin crew should have no visible tattoos or body piercings “that can’t be covered discreetly”. Styles of dress can also the subject of disagreement.

So, if a member of your staff turns up to work with a new tattoo or an outlandish hairstyle, what can you do? However much you dislike it, may well need to prove why it is unacceptable in your workplace. This may be because the member of staff has a public-facing role and it reflects badly on the business, or it may be that it is offensive to others, particularly customers.

It is always best if you can simply discuss the issue with the member of staff and come to a mutually agreeable arrangement. This might involve them wearing long-sleeved tops to cover a tattoo, for example. Clearly this will be much easier if you have a policy on dress and appearance, which you can refer to.

The most important thing is for all employers to have a robust policy on dress and appearance. Without this, it will be much more difficult to come to an agreement and, if things get more serious, you won’t be able to take disciplinary action. It is also important to apply any dress code consistently.

By Jeremy Harvey, Head of Employment and HR at Coodes Solicitors