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Tattoos In The Workplace

23rd October 2014

Dear Jenny

I have read in the newspapers this week that a female consultant has been dismissed because she had a tattoo.  I have a tattoo and am concerned that I might lose my job too.  Please could you help!

Dear Reader

Thank you very much for your email, I understand your concern.  This is quite a difficult question to answer without more information.  The lady that was dismissed last week for having a tattoo was in fact a consultant and she had a butterfly tattoo on her foot and ankle.  The tattoo she had was quite obvious and she did not cover it up.  In her situation, she was an agency worker and is therefore not classed as an employee. She may not therefore be able to take any action against her dismissal.

In your situation, it will depend on a number of factors as to whether or not there is a possibility of you losing your job for having a tattoo.  Firstly it depends on what your job is and whether or not your employer has a tattoo policy.  This may also depend on whether the policy is reasonable or not.  For example, if you worked in close contact with the public and you represent your company’s image, if you have a very obvious tattoo that is not possible to cover up then it may be reasonable for your employer dismiss you on that basis. They may argue that that an obvious tattoo on display is not representative of their company image.  However, in order for this to be reasonable there are other factors to consider, such as the size of your tattoo and what job you actually do.  On the other hand if you have a tattoo that it is possible to cover up, you do not have any contact with the public and therefore do not represent a company image, it would likely be unreasonable for an employer to dismiss you for having that tattoo.

If you are dismissed and you believe that it would be unreasonable, you would need to have two years’ service in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim, alternatively if you do not have that two years’ service you may be able to bring claims in relation to discrimination.

Furthermore, if your employer does not have a policy in relation to tattoos and they simply dismiss you for having a tattoo again this might be unreasonable and you may be able to take some action against them for it.  The best advice is, if you are considering having a tattoo then check your employer’s policy and decide whether you want to have a tattoo that can be covered up or not.  Your body is your own and you are entitled to do as you wish with it, but there may be some occasions when your employer may be able to state that it is not in line with their company image.

If you would like to talk about this any further then please contact me on j.nuttall@livingstons.co.uk or telephone 01229 585555.

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