This article was published on October 10th, 2014
The boundaries of discrimination law are being tested all the time. As more classes of people gain protection, others naturally seek it out.
Stories like those of Jo Perkins hit the headlines every now and again. Her contract was terminated because she hadn’t covered up a four-inch butterfly tattoo on her foot. This contravened the “no visible inking” policy which many employers have in place.
It’s a difficult one for businesses, keen to protect their brand image. There is a risk of appearing to be out of touch, stifling individuals’ freedom of expression. But in reality tattoos aren’t always well received, particularly when it comes to certain types of customer-facing jobs.
The bottom line is that there is no specific legal protection from being dismissed (or suffering another detriment) simply for having a tattoo. It’s for employers to introduce the right policies in the right way and to follow the correct disciplinary procedures when a tattoo becomes an issue.
But there is new guidance, from Acas, about dress codes and appearance generally in the workplace: https://www.acas.org.uk/dresscode
It’s a good summary of the sorts of things employers should think about before, during and after issues about appearance in the workplace arise.