Research conducted jointly by the business schools at the University of Miami and University of Western Australia has found that the perception of tattoos amongst employers has become much more positive.
The results of the study, which involved 2,000 participants from across the US, highlight that there is seemingly no negative impact of tattoos on an individual’s employability or wages; in fact, in some cases, having visible body art makes a candidate more attractive to a potential employer – at least when it comes to male candidates.
Reasons cited by the study’s authors for the findings include the fact that tattoos have become a more accepted feature in society; in addition, it is surmised that young people who were themselves tattooed over the past couple of decades have now risen to the level of management and are in a position to hire employees.
The findings of the study are contrary to the long-held view that candidates and employees with visible body art are treated less favourably than their tattoo-free counterparts. The UK conciliation service Acas had previously called on employers to change their stance on tattoos, indicating that some managers fear an employee with visible body art will present a negative image of the company to customers and clients.
When it comes to employment law and tattoos, it is important to note that body art is not a protected characteristic under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 unless it is a religious marking.
This means employers are free to choose a tattoo-free candidate over a tattooed one; in some circumstances, they can even dismiss an employee over their body art, such as when an employee who regularly deals with clients or customers has an offensive tattoo put on their face.
While tattoos may not raise many employment law red flags, Acas has highlighted that employers who overlook tattooed candidates could be missing out on talent. This is especially true given the fact that, according to the Acas figures, nearly one-third of UK adults under 40 have at last one piece of body art. Acas therefore suggests that any rules relating to staff members’ appearance should not be solely based on the manager’s personal preference.
The findings of the latest study suggest that attitudes towards visible body art at work have changed for the better across the pond. It is no doubt only a matter of time before the message spreads to managers and HR professionals in the UK.