Tattoos are becoming an increasingly common sight, especially among the millennial generation. A 2013 study by social researchers, McCrindle found that 12% of all Australians had one or more tattoos, with the figure being much higher in younger demographics. With their popularity ever-increasing, the question of whether visible tattoos are acceptable in the workplace, however, remains controversial.
Whether tattoos are accepted in the workplace will depend on several factors such as the kind of business, the type of work employees perform and whether they are in contact with customers. It is usually best practice for workplaces to include guidelines around tattoos in the employee dress code. The most common policy is that tattoos shouldn’t be visible, however this can become problematic when the tattoos are in places such as on the neck and hands and can’t readily be covered.
Some businesses, particularly in the hospitality and retailing sectors who may be targeting millennials, allow employees to show off their tattoos. This is usually done to make their business become more attractive to millennial customers. If you choose to allow your workers to have visible tattoos, it is important to note in the dress code that some tattoos may have the potential to cause offence such as images or words that are pornographic, racially-vilifying or demeaning.
Asking an employee to conceal a tattoo, or refusing to employ them is within your rights if it is reasonably likely that other people who had contact with the employee would be offended. However, discriminating against an employee because of a tattoo worn for racial or religious reasons – which includes forcing them to conceal it – could result in unlawful discrimination on the grounds of race or religious beliefs.
For advice regarding workplace tattoos, please contact us on (08) 9316 9896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.