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Are We Discriminating Against Potential Employees Without Even Realising?

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Tattoos...piercings....body modifications....In certain industries questions are often raised regarding body modifications such as ‘can I ask an employee to remove a nose stud?’

Although tattoos, piercings and other body modifications are not protected under the Equality Act 2010, it is important to consider possible challenges on the grounds of a breach of human rights;  often employers promote equal opportunity and anti discrimination polices for all employees and applicants, and endeavour to create a working environment in which all individuals are able to make best use of their skills, free from discrimination or harassment, and, in which all decisions are based on merit.


Recent research by ACAS  shows that employers are not in touch with the public’s changing attitudes to tattoos and piercings. In some sectors, tattoos and piercings are frowned upon for fear of how they’ll be viewed by customers and clients.

Does appearance affect the recruitment process?

Would a potential employee be overlooked as a result of their tattoos and piercings, despite being extremely talented? Groups of people may be prejudiced against because of this. With the growing number, of especially young people, with a different appearance, this means that employers could be missing out on employing the best people for the job! Also, isn’t a diverse workforce the way forward?

So as an employer what do you need to do?

  • Be clear in your policies on what you will allow, and be clear in your decisions for this if they are challenged; provide explanations as to how these decisions have been reached and where possible involve employees in decision making.
  • Be consistent!
  • Also, use your managers. Strong communication between employees and management is always more effective at getting viewpoints across.