Should You Have To Cover Up Piercings And Tattoos For Work

1 in 3 people young people and 1 in 5 individuals in the UK are inked now.  Once tattoo s were reserved for soldiers, sailors and bikers now every famous icon is inked and even the prime minister’s wife has a small dolphin tattoo.  According to Jon Kelly who writes for the BBC, “Tattoos are everywhere. Tattoos are respectable”(1)

Tattoos have been common throughout history, The Huffington Post’s research says “Roosevelt had a crest on his chest, Churchill had an anchor on his arm and King George V had a dragon on his arm.”(2)

So if everyone has a tattoo should you have to cover yours up?

I have ten tattoos, my eyebrow pierced and my nose pierced three times.  Would I take out my piercings for an interview? No, would I advise that you do, Yes.  Despite my own principled stand it is not something I advise you to follow.

As an individual with individual tastes you should be respected.  You should be able to express yourself while still retaining an air of professionalism.  If you wear a suit why should your tattoos and piercings be a problem?  They are part of who you are and not part of your ability to do a job.

Most people who bear a tattoo or two would argue that they shouldn’t be used to discriminate against you within the hiring process.  However there are currently no labour/discrimination laws that cover tattoo and piercings.  So this means that employers are well within their rights to not hire you because of your tattoo or piercing. Dr Andrew Timming led research at the University of St Andrews and he said, “Most respondents agreed that visible tattoos are a stigma. …'Hiring managers realise that, ultimately, it does not matter what they think of tattoos - what really matters, instead, is how customers might perceive employees with visible tattoos”(3)

Why isn’t this discrimination?

This is because every employer has a right to have a dress code and within that dress code can be the requirement to have no tattoos or piercings visible.  The BBC has reported in 2012 that the Metropolitan Police has banned staff from getting visible tattoos. Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said the body art 'damages the professional image' of police(4) he goes on to say that all staff should register any body art with their line managers.  He is well within his rights as the representative of the employer.

So while I valiantly fight for the rights of the tattooed and pierced to be treated no different from those who are not.  I still think that you should cover up if you can.  While I never remove my piercings, I do go to interviews in a suit, which is not only the convention for interviews but it also serves to cover my tattoos.  You may think this is hypocritical of me however I send this warning because the point is, choosing not to hire you because of your tattoos and piercings is not discrimination.

What are the Options?

You are, I’m afraid, only left with two options, either cover up your tattoos and remove your piercings or find an employer who isn’t worried about you having them.  It seems unfair but in the world of work where everyone is competing for jobs, you have to take the steps that will ensure you are selected above other candidates.




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