Have you ever thought about getting a tattoo, but then decided against it fearing judgement from others? Well, a recent study says that 1 in 4 Australian’s have at least one tattoo, which has risen from 19% in 2016! From this data, it is clear that society’s perceptions surrounding tattoos have changed from a symbol of rebellion, to a form of self-expression – but is this the case in a workplace?
What are the Workplace Laws on Tattoos?
Qantas and Emirates are known for having a strong ‘No Tattoo’ policy after making headlines back in 2017 when they refused a candidate over a small 10-cent sized tattoo on their ankle. But were they allowed to do this?
Another well-known case of tattoos affecting an individual’s career was in 2020 when a Primary School teacher in France was BANNED from teaching kindergarten. This occurred after a parent reported him because their child had received nightmares as a result of looking at the teacher, who was covered head to toe (including eyeballs) in 460 hours’ worth of ink.
Although these two cases may be extremely different, the same rule applies; employers are legally permitted to implement such policies in the name of maintaining their public image and reputation. Therefore, physical features, such as tattoos, are rarely protected under the Discrimination Legislation.
When does Discrimination Occur?
Discrimination can occur if employees or candidates are rejected due to tattoos related to their culture or religion, as this could constitute as racial discrimination e.g. a Samoan candidate declined for having a traditional Pe’a tattoo.
Similarly, if employees are treated unequally in terms of tattoos this could amount to discrimination. An example of this would be, a female being asked to cover her tattoos, when a male employee is not asked to cover his – this can constitute as gender discrimination.
How a Tattoo Affects your Chances as a Candidate
Not only is this is largely based on the company and their attitudes toward tattoos, but it also has a lot to do with the industry you wish to work in. The common industries that will ask employees to cover their tattoos, or refuse to hire any candidates who have a tattoo include Law Enforcement, Teachers, Healthcare professionals and roles that are typically customer facing, such as bankers.
However, there are some industries where a tattoo can actually improve your job prospects! These roles are typically in artistic industries such as Beauty, Graphic Design, Marketing and Entertainment. Tattoos are typically accepted in these industries as the role requires some self-expression and creative flair!
What are your thoughts? Are tattoos unprofessional, or merely a form of identity expression?
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