Human Resources Assistant
The Wrekin Housing Trust
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Should tattoos be covered up during work?

Should tattoos be covered up during work

We have an employee who covers breaks on our front of house reception. This employee has tattoos down the front of his arms. We have asked him to wear a long sleeved shirt whilst covering reception. Are we breaching his human rights or discriminating against him for having tattoos? We also do not have a dress code policy.
Madeline Clark


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22nd Jun 2006 06:42

get a dress code policy which addresses your concerns and image but is non-dicriminatory. for the purpose of the law non sexist, racist etc

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20th Jun 2006 12:46

No, you are not breaching his human rights for asking him to cover up his tatoos. I have tatoos on my (upper)arms but would never dream of displaying them in a work environment, unless the environment was building work or similar where it was considered acceptable by the client.

However, yes, you should have a dress code policy to cover this eventuality, particularly if you have women working at your establishment who routinely display tatoos on their backs, midriffs etc. when wearing office clothing to protect you from discrimination claims.

But, if you have a statement in the contract about "any other reasonable duties", I think he would be hard pushed to establish that covering his arms at lunch was an "unreasonable duty".

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By Anonymous
27th Jun 2006 10:30

I too have a tattoo which under no circumstances would I show at work, I do however find 'Nik's' comment unusual wrt builders work!

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27th Jun 2006 11:05

Just to challenge the thinking a little - why do the tattoos cause a problem or will they really cause any offence?

If they are logos or images that might be seen as offensive then I'd agree to cover them.

If you don't have a dress code (or a uniform???) that possibly suggests that perhaps casual attire is acceptable and that therefore the environment is perhaps not that formal. Are tattoos therefore really that out of place?

I am female and have a gorgeous tattoo (IMHO!) at the base of my neck. It often shows even when I have work clothes on. I have not (yet) had any complaints or concerns raised and it doesn't seem to be stopping me from getting any work (I am freelance). I make a judgement call about the need to cover it if I am going to a more formal workplace.

I don't think you are in danger particularly of breaching human rights or being discriminatory by asking the employee to wear long sleeves if the tattoos really are unacceptable in your workplace.

BUT my challenge to anyone is to be as open minded as posible, and weigh up the situation - what is of most concern to you - accepting an employee and encouraging their individuality (if and as appropriate) or concerns for a possible customer complaint?

Does the employee give good customer service? Does he smile & treat people with respect? If so - do his tattoos matter that much to people's perceptions?

Just my thoughts....

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27th Jun 2006 11:28

I don't personally have tattoo's but can see no situation where they should need to be covered (unless they are particularly offensive in any way).

We used to have an employee who had full sleeves (tattoos covering the whole arm to the wrist) and whilst he had no day to day contact with customers he did tour the building regularly as part of his role and would be exposed to clients etc. He was never told to cover them.

If you should receive a specific complaint from a number of customers then maybe consider taking some form of action but for now leave it alone.

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