A small majority of employers believe tattoos in the workplace have a negative impact on a working environment, new research has found, but with more young UK professionals than ever sporting body ink, could it be time to reassess our attitudes?
The findings, gathered by commercial property agent Savoy Stewart, revealed which industries the public find tattoos most uncomfortable, and in which they were more relaxed about visible body art.
For small business owners, overlooking the three in ten workers aged between 25 to 39 years old carrying tattoos in Britain could significantly narrow the recruitment pool and risk missing out on promising talent.
The study revealed which industries had the most tattooed workers.
Percentage of tattooed workers by profession
- Agricultre: 22 per cent
- Hospitality, tourism: 20 per cent
- Arts and culture: 16 per cent
- Retail: 14 per cent
- Finance and banking 13 per cent
- Healthcare and medical technology 13 per cent
- Professional Services: 13 per cent
- Education and family services: 12 per cent
- Manufacturing: 9 per cent
- Energy, design and construction: 9 per cent
- Information technology: 9 per cent
- Government: 8 per cent
The uncovering of negative attitudes towards tattoos in the workplace also raised a gender question. Male employers were more likely than female counterparts to discriminate against tattooed candidates, while female job seekers, more likely to be tattooed themselves, could be more likely to face a negative bias.
The Police Federation is one organisation leading modernisation. It recently ran a campaign for greater acceptance of tattoos in the workplace, and has since announced new best practice guidelines that seek to “provide officers and staff with clear direction on their appearance, so that they present a professional image while also being allowed some self-expression.”
Before we reveal which industries carried the greatest tattoo taboos, it’s worth considering how negative perceptions might be formed. The answer could be in subconscious readings of character. Characteristics most commonly associated with those who have tattoos included “rebellious”, “less intelligent” and “unhealthy”.
The following table from Savoy Stewart indicates public attitudes towards tattooed workers by industry
|Profession||Percentage comfortable||Percentage uncomfortable|
|Athlete||88 per cent||12 per cent|
|Chef||81 per cent||19 per cent|
|Police officer||73 per cent||27 per cent|
|IT technician||72 per cent||28 per cent|
|Estate agent||69 per cent||31 per cent|
|Banker||63 per cent||37 per cent|
|Doctor||59 per cent||41 per cent|
|Judge||59 per cent||41 per cent|
|Nurse||57 per cent||43 per cent|
|Lawyer||57 per cent||43 per cent|
|Primary school teacher||49 per cent||51 per cent|
|Political figure||44 per cent||56 per cent|
|Air hostess||42 per cent||58 per cent|
Responding to the findings, Hayley Smith, director of Boxed Out PR, drew on her own experiences to explain how a progressive approach can be taken towards tattoos in the workplace.
“I’m very liberal in the workplace, and all of my clients know I have tattoos. I thoroughly believe that as long as the tattoos aren’t offensive, then it shouldn’t matter. It’s the 21st century, people have tattoos, and piercings, and coloured hair. This shouldn’t be a judgement on your abilities and skills.
Explaining the benefits of tolerance for employers, Smith added: “Companies need to accept that tattoos are part of our culture, and they’re missing out on some of the best talent because of stigma and views.”
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