Facial Piercings in the Workplace


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Monday, September 19, 2022

Putting together a policy on facial piercings in the workplace means staff and the employer understands where the company draws the line.

Article 3 Minutes
Facial Piercings in the Workplace

A diverse workforce is good for business and many organizations want to allow their employees some level of self expression. The question is where to draw the line when it comes to facial piercings. Finding the balance between offering freedoms and ensuring professionalism is the key, but as with most things in HR, it’s not completely straight forward.

Piercing policy

While it can be tempting not to address this area of work life until it becomes an issue, this approach can leave you exposed. It’s important to set a policy from the beginning that leaves no ambiguities for your staff. That way they can ensure any piercings they get fall within predetermined limits, and you can point to the policy should they go beyond these parameters.

Piercings and the law

All policies must fit within the wider law, but despite popular belief, the constitutional right to freedom of expression, as set out by the First Amendment in the US and similar statutes in other countries, don’t cover piercings in the workplace. Instead, it’s up to the discretion of management and often depends on whether an employee has a customer-facing role.

Facial piercings across industries

When you’re putting together your piercing policy, it’s worth thinking carefully about the industry your business operates in and the expectations that come with it. Many creative industries embrace piercings as a form of self expression and cutting down on them could come as a surprise. Anyone looking for a role within the corporate world should be aware that facial piercings are less likely to be welcomed.

Types of facial piercing

As well as the industry, it’s worth considering different types of facial piercing too. Multiple cartilage piercings through the ear are now widely accepted by even the most conservative companies. Some have also decided to embrace nose studs, while septum, lip, eyebrow and Monroe piercings are often discouraged, meaning this is often where the line is drawn.

Hiding piercings

Communicating to employees why your company has a certain stance on facial piercings is important and can lead to further questions. For example, employees in roles that are client facing may suggest they simply hide their piercings. This can be done by using clear retainers or turning a circular barbell up inside the nose, so it’s vital to cover this topic in your policy so expectations are clearly defined.

Where to outline piercing policy

When you’ve decided on your piercing policy, it should be made available to all existing and potential employees. This means publishing it in the staff handbook or within contracts. If any amends are made to the policy then they should be flagged, so everyone can stay up-to-date on the latest rules and raise objections if they have any.

What your policy should include

Your piercing policy should be comprehensive, but not too lengthy, so make sure you include the following elements:

  • A brief introduction to your rationale
  • Explanation of who is included in the policy
  • Outline of the policy
  • Definitions of specific and general terms
  • Any exceptions to the policy
  • Consequences of violations

Implementing policy

A facial piercing policy is only effective if it’s implemented and this must be done in a fair and consistent manner. Inviting employees to collaborate on it is a good way to ensure it’s seen as relevant and proportional. Having staff sign a copy of the policy means they’ve agreed to it, but setting up an email address to deal with questions anonymously can be useful to iron out any gray areas.

Piercings and hiring top talent

ACAS, the conciliation service in the UK, conducted research a few years ago that suggested companies could be missing out on top talent as a result of policies on piercings and tattoos in the workplace. Several years later and the competition to bring in highly skilled staff has only been exacerbated, meaning businesses could find themselves a more desirable place to work just by being more open minded about facial piercings.

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