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ACAS Gives Guidance on Tattoos and Piercings

ACAS have published new research on dress codes which shows that employers risk losing talented young employees due to concerns about employing people with visible tattoos.
The research paper examines employee perceptions and experiences of, and organisational policy and practice in, the area of dress codes and appearance management at work. The study focused on various aspects of employee appearance and found that young people are especially affected as almost one in three young people have a tattoo. Other findings revealed that:

•    Negative attitudes towards tattoos and piercing from managers and employees can influence the outcome of recruitment exercises within some workplaces;

•    Some public sector workers felt that people would not have confidence in the professionalism of a person with a visible tattoo; and

•    Some private sector employers, from law firms to removal companies, all raised concerns about visible tattoos in relation to perceived negative attitudes of potential clients or customers.

In light of the report, employers should ensure that they have a genuine need or business case for imposing a rule. This could, for example, be a valid health and safety reason, such as keeping dangling piercings away from factory machinery.

ACAS has updated its dress code guidance in light of the research and latest developments:

•    Following the recent case of a temporary worker who was sent home without pay for refusing to wear high heels at work, ACAS' revised advice is clear that any dress code should not be stricter, or lead to a detriment, for one gender over the other;

•    An employer's dress code must not be discriminatory in respect of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 for age, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation;

•    Employers may adopt a more casual approach to dress during the summer, but this may depend on the type of business; and

•    It is good practice when drafting or updating a dress code for an employer to consider the reasoning behind it. Consulting with employees over any proposed dress code may ensure that the code is acceptable to both the organisation and employees.

This bulletin is for general guidance purposes only and should not be used for any other purpose.

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