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Can Bosses Tell Staff To Cover Up Tattoos

THE head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, has banned all police officers and staff from having visible tattoos, for example on their hands, arms, neck or face.
This has been reported by Stallard Kane Associates (SKA), which provides a support service for SME companies on health & safety and employment law, and for organisations such as FeRFA.
The question SKA asks is whether other employers can ban visible tattoos as part of their dress code?
Certain types of body art are seen to be fashionable these days, and the Police Federation has openly criticised the commisioner’s decision for being ‘far too heavy-handed’ and ‘not keeping up with modern life’.
However, Sir Bernard says it is justified because tattoos that can be seen by the public ‘damage the Met’s professional image’.
So can employers adopt a similar rule?
The advice from Stallard Kane is that they can. It says that providing a restriction can be objectively justified.
The law affords employers a considerable amount of flexibility when it comes to setting out their rules on staff dress and appearance during working hours. The most solid business reason here is that a minimum standard of appearance is necessary to ensure that ‘all staff project a professional image to customers, clients, suppliers and other business contacts at all times’.
The easiest way of introducing (or reinforcing) appearance standards is via a written policy, says SKA.
The policy should set out the firm’s reasons for any restrictions on visible tattoos, make any breach a disciplinary offence and be applied equally to all staff.
SKA says also that if anyone argues that this rule is discriminatory, or that it breaches their human rights, bosses should not panic!
It explains that the Equality Act 2010 doesn’t protect individuals who have non-medical tattoos.
Also, the tribunal will put the employer’s right to portray a professional image above an individual’s right to freedom of expression. However, bosses are advised to always check that there is no underlying religious or ethnic reason for a visible tattoo. It’s unlikely, but not impossible, says SKA.

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at