Banning Visible Tattoos in the Workplace

November 16, 2012 | ,

Most workplaces will have a dress code specifying what standard of dress and appearance is required of their employees.  This may involve a uniform or a general policy such as ‘smart office wear’.  However, problems may arise in relation to an employee’s visible tattoos or piercings.

The head of the Metropolitan Police, Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has recently banned all employees from having any visible tattoos as they “damage the professional image” of the police force.  So, can you adopt a similar rule?

Providing the rule is consistently applied to all employees and can be objectively justified then such a policy can be enforced.  The most common reason cited for such a policy is if your employees meet with customers, clients or suppliers then a smart dress code will present a professional image of the business as a whole.

Nevertheless, it is important to consider whether the policy is indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of religion or belief. If there is a religious or ethnic reason for the tattoo you would need to demonstrate that banning it or ordering that it be covered up was a proportionate response to a legitimate aim.  Additionally, the tattoo could be for medical purposes and may fall foul of The Equality Act 2010.

However, providing that the above does not apply then employers have a great deal of flexibility when drafting an employee dress code.

If you would like further advice on the above or any aspect of policies in the workplace please contact  Jenny Bennett.

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