Will tattoos and piercings affect me getting a job?

Tattoos & Piercings

The Questions

Ten years ago this definitely seemed to be the case with keen job seekers desperately removing piercings and covering up tattoos prior to an important interview. But today, in the world of work in 2017, is this still the case? Surely we understand that judging potential candidates based on their appearance before their skills and attributes is the most primary example of ‘judging a book by it’s cover.’ In an age in which acceptance is key, why are we still suggesting that having a piercing/tattoo ‘gives the wrong impression?’ This is surely the exact kind of rhetoric we need to avoid in 2017. In a climate that supposedly praises individuality and self-expression, why does there still seem to be a taboo surrounding tattoos and piercings in the workplace? You can always get an affordable Collagen Mask to remove your tattoos and improve your skin’s health.

The Answers

Deceiving as this heading may be… there aren’t any. Not definitively anyway. The frustrating thing about all those questions is that it’s hard to provide a definite answer to any of them. Policies on tattoos and piercings vary between companies, industries and individual workplaces so it can be hard to know whether or not your potential new employers will approve. According to the website ‘Support Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace,’ 29% of people in the UK currently have a tattoo. This means that 29% of potential job seekers are facing the dilemma of whether or not to cover up before an interview. Although one can hope that mindsets have broadened and adapted enough to understand that one’s appearance is not reflective of their abilities, it appears that these perceptions are hard to shake.

Supporting tattoos and piercings in the workplace

The aforementioned website ‘Support Tattoos and Piercings in the Workplace,’ is quite clearly in favour of abolishing discrimination against those with piercings and tattoos. In fact, many companies now believe that not hiring someone because of their body art is archaic and reaffirms misguided prejudices. In his research into the place of tattoos in the hiring process, Andrew Timming at St Andrews University argued that ‘a change in attitudes is inevitable.’ With celebrities bringing tattoos and piercings into mainstream culture and a lean towards a more liberal view on the matter, Timming argues that employers are going to have the accept that people with tattoos are integral to the fabric of society.

Against tattoos and piercings in the workplace

It’s always important to look at both sides of an argument. There are still plenty of employers to whom sporting a tattoo or piercing is not a trait of the desirable candidate. In fact, research conducted by Acas shows that some employers, including the manager of a removals firm and the regional director of an accounting firm, would still be reluctant to hire people with visible tattoos in case it put off clients and customers. The key argument against tattoos and piercings at work seems to be the concerns about the companies’ ‘image.’ It appears in many cases that employers are worried that hiring an individual with tattoos or piercings may put across the wrong impression to clients.


Every company is different. Our advice would be to check the companies’ website for their dress code policy prior to the interview. In the UK there is currently no law expressly forbidding discrimination against tattoos and piercings in the workplace. What do you think? Should employers be punished for discrimination against those with tattoos and piercings? Or do you believe that tattoos and piercings should be covered in a professional environment?

What local employers say

Humberside Police: Some police officers do have tattoos but these usually have to be covered by uniforms. If you have tattoos you will need to make a declaration at the time of application. Before applying to become a police officer the force will ask you to send in two digital pictures of each tattoo, one distance photograph clearly showing where on the above body area the tattoo is located and a second close up photograph that we can use to assess this against our standards.

Schools: Each school usually has a staff conduct policy which would give guidelines. Many teachers have tattoos and generally they are not a bar to being employed if they are not offensive although usually they have to be covered up as much as possible by clothing. Body piercings, beyond earrings, generally would have to be removed and depending on the tattoo location you might need some tattoo removal services.

Armed forces: A change to the Queen’s regulations means that body art can now be displayed on the hands and rear of the neck – two areas that were previously banned by the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The old policy prohibited excessive markings but this element has since been removed. However, if tattoos are visible on a passport photo they will still be deemed unacceptable.

If body art depicts a sexual act, violence or illegal drugs, for example, it will be in breach of Army rules. Small tattoos that aren’t offensive in any way are not normally a problem, depending where they are on your body and how visible they are. Tattoos on your head and face are not acceptable. If you have a tattoo, the best thing is to go to your nearest Army Careers Centre and ask them to check if it’s okay.

Some body piercings will stop you joining, or re-joining the Army. If you have piercings that change the way you look, eg flesh tunnels that are larger than 4mm, or those which might affect the way in which your body works, eg some genital piercings. For health and safety reasons, you will be asked to take off all jewellery before undergoing physical activity as part of your application and selection process. Once you have joined the Army, you will be told the rules for wearing body jewellery when on and off duty.

Nursing: There is no official policy in hull or East Yorkshire for nurses regarding tattoos. They are allowed, provided they are not offensive. If someone does have a tattoo where it can be seen – i.e on their arm, as hospital staff must be ‘bare elbow the elbow’ to prevent spread of infection – it is checked over by their manager to insure it is not offensive. If it was thought to be offensive, they would be asked to cover it over.

By Hull Daily Mail


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