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Tattoos in the Workplace

Virgin Atlantic recently announced it has relaxed its policy on tattoos for cabin crew.  Previously, the airline had banned any visible tattoos and would only hire staff who could conceal their tattoos beneath their uniform.

Our team look at the legal position on tattoos in the workplace.

What is the legal position on tattoos in the workplace?

Inkings are not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and therefore, employers can make hiring and firing decisions based on body art.

Obviously, if an existing employee, decided to be inked and the employer was unhappy with the result, they would have to follow a fair process to terminate the employee’s employment. This would depend on whether the employee had breached any existing company policy, the nature of the tattoo, whether concealment was possible, the reason for the tattoo, whether the employee’s role is public facing, the employee’s length of service etc. In addition, employers should ensure that their approach to dealing with this type of scenario is consistent.

What about a policy?

Employers may want to consider whether they require a policy on body art (including piercings and implants), which could be a stand-alone policy or part of a wider dress code policy. With many more people now being inked and given the issues with recruitment many employers are facing, they may risk losing out on potential candidates by placing a blanket ban on visible tattoos. Virgin’s revised policy will enable the airline to consider candidates that were previously not eligible to apply for cabin crew positions, increasing the number of applicants during a time where the aviation industry is struggling to find staff post pandemic and its competitors are still maintaining restrictions.

Virgin have kept some restrictions in place and flight attendants cannot have facial or neck tattoos, although it is understood that this may be reviewed at a later date. Tattoos with any swearing or those which could be considered to be culturally inappropriate or with any reference to drugs, alcohol, nudity and violence are banned. Knuckle tattoos are also off limits.

It’s not a one size fits all approach …

It’s important to remember that when drafting or updating any policy, that it is not discriminatory in terms of age, disability, race, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation and the same applies when making a decision on a job applicant.

Need further assistance?

If you want to discuss your current dress code policy and making changes to it, or need help updating and other company policies, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494. You can also call us if you need any other assistance with employment related issues.

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