Employers’ attitudes towards tattoos and dress codes
  • 4th Oct 2016
  • Article written by Louise Purcell
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Recent notable cases in 2016 have highlighted how careful employers need to be when implementing dress codes at work. It is no surprise that companies want to display a certain image by the dress code of their employees.  However, cases in the news such as the receptionist who was told she had to wear high heel shoes have made it abundantly clear that employers need to make sure their dress codes are not discriminatory in any way.  In such cases there are likely to be claims that there has been discrimination on the ground of sex.  We have even seen a recent case of an employer trying to justify the banning of a Muslim head scarf at work, on the basis that it was a customer facing role, which was eventually found to be direct discrimination on the ground of religion and belief.


Tattoos have become increasingly popular and mainstream in recent years and many young candidates are likely to have visible tattoos.  Recent research has suggested that by having a policy or dress code which does not permit visible tattoos could mean employers are missing out on talented young candidates. Potentially, as tattoos are becoming more mainstream, people find them less shocking which means they may have a lower impact on the image of the employee to a client or customer. Of course, having tattoos is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, but there is the potential that a strict ban on tattoos could result in a discrimination claim on the grounds of religion and belief, where it is common practice for some belief systems to display tattoos. There may also be a risk of an age discrimination claim.  Ultimately, employers must ensure that their dress code is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.  Employers are permitted to set out different dress codes for men and women, so long as they are applied equally and reasonable adjustments should be made for employees with a disability where necessary.