Tattoos in the Workplace

Tattoos in the Workplace

Visible tattoos are often thought of as a workplace taboo. But should SMEs abide by this, or will it lead to them missing out on talent?

More and more people have tattoos nowadays as they become less of a taboo, particularly among young people. For the most part you wouldn't know who is tattooed and who isn't but it's becoming common to see them in visible locations such as the forearms, hands or neck.

So what does this mean for you as an SME owner?

When you come to hire someone, you need to be ready for what to do if they are tattooed. Should it affect your decision about hiring them? If so, why?

Part of it depends on your business. There is certainly an argument to count tattoos against someone when hiring if the role is highly customer-facing; research shows that consumers prefer interacting with non-tattooed staff. However, the other side of that coin is that someone with great enthusiasm and personal skills will be a good hire, tattooed or not, so it shouldn't be the sole factor in your decision.

How this will affect hiring talent

The main argument for a tattoo-inclusive workplace is that you don't want to end up missing out on talent. Aisha Oakley, head of HR outsourcing at the Bradfield Group, points out that this kind of discrimination "means the pool of talent is automatically shrunk for those employers who have negative perceptions of those with tattoos".

The last thing you don’t want to do is reject the perfect job candidate - someone who could have a major positive impact on your SME - just because they are tattooed. That doesn't mean begrudgingly hiring someone if you're not prepared to treat them equally, either; if you're going to have a tattooed workforce, you need to be committed to being inclusive.

Kirsten Davidson, head of employer brand at Glassdoor, said: "Labeling something taboo is dangerous for workplace transparency. When we look at companies rated highly for culture & values on Glassdoor, we often see employee feedback about feeling comfortable bringing their whole selves to work, or feeling free to be authentic."

To this end, many businesses are getting rid of any kind of dress code whatsoever. If a job doesn't involve meeting clients, is there really any need for it? Chartered HR professional Sarah Loates argues that creativity and freedom of self-expression should be valued much more than how employees look.

Embracing your workforce whether they’re tattooed or not could lead to a more relaxed atmosphere and employees who feel fulfilled, therefore allowing their productivity levels to get higher as a result.

Before you do go ahead with hiring new employees, think carefully about your tattoo policy and how that might affect the future workforce.

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