Are workplace tattoos leaving a scar in 2015?

Bondi hipsters are letting out a collective sigh of relief. It seems that employers are feeling more comfortable with the idea of employees having tattoos.

Whether reminding us to seize the day, helping us remember our favourite Bon Jovi lyrics, or making sure we never forget that dare we lost, tattoos are increasingly commonplace. Whilst the general population seems to have accepted tattoos, the question is do they have a place in your workplace?

Inevitably, your approach to tattoos in the workplace will vary depending on what kind of business you are and the type of role the employee is working in. Your comfort with employees showing off tattoos in non-client facing roles may be very different to your stance on employee tattoos in predominantly client-facing roles.

Although enforcing strict dress code policies to ensure your staff are representing your business in the best possible light is encouraged, you must consider the significance of having sound, defensible and reasonable grounds for the implementation of such policies.

It’s critical that you have a well drafted dress policy in place that is strictly in line with the operational needs of the business. It’s also important to ensure it is not discriminatory in nature.

For example, consider the following scenario:

An employer has a policy to refuse to hire any workers with visible tattoos that also extends to roles with no customer contact. A job applicant for a back-of-house storeperson role who has a tattoo which expresses their race, colour, nationality or ethnic origin was not hired because of their tattoo.

Both Commonwealth and state anti-discrimination legislation deems discrimination on the grounds of race to be unlawful, so applying a strict dress policy against workplace tattoos here could be risky.

Your risk can also extend beyond race discrimination. In Victoria for example, discrimination is unlawful on the basis of ‘physical features’. Although no binding decision has been made, employees in Victoria may have specific protection from discrimination for their tattoos in some circumstances, particularly if a strict ‘no tattoo’ stance doesn’t mirror the inherent requirements of the role in question.

What does this mean for you?

With more and more employers taking an ink-friendly approach, it may be time to re-evaluate your current dress and uniform policy.

Such policies play a significant role in upholding the standards of your business, but unless they are drafted correctly, clearly understood by all employees and consistently applied in the workplace, they may fall short from protecting your business.

For more information on uniform and dress policies, clients should contact the HR Assured team. If you’d like more information about the benefits of becoming an HR Assured client contact us today for an informal chat.