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Time to relax policies on tattoos in the workplace?

New research on appearance at work from ACAS shows that employers may be out of touch with changing public attitudes to visible tattoos, body piercings and other developments.

With recent reports of employers like McDonald’s and Starbucks relaxing their stance on tattoos, are attitudes to employee appearance becoming more liberal?

It is clear that there are still tensions surrounding appearance issues at work.

For example, the presence of visible body modifications such as tattoos and piercings are likely to be frowned upon in some parts of the services sector. From an employer perspective, there is concern over how these may be viewed by potential customers or clients.

From an employee perspective, there is a certain resentment about being judged because of the way you look. Some people respond by concealing their “personalisations” or simply leave to find a more understanding employer.

The research does indicate that some organisations have begun to reconsider their strict “no tattoo” policies for front-line staff, and also consider all aspects of employee appearance. A 2015 survey showed that tattoos and piercings were allowed in around 41% of the organisations surveyed.

Although many employers encourage uniformity as a way of team building and building a brand image, it is important to recognise the benefits that a diverse workforce can bring. At Starbucks, for example, they have recognised that it’s no bad thing if their staff mirror the appearance of their customers.

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