The Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has released the results of a study that suggests companies are losing out on talent due to their intolerant stance on tattoos in the workplace. With one in three young people bearing body art, the study found that in both the public and private sector, a negative reaction to tattoos can hinder younger applicants during the recruitment process. ACAS has updated its dress guidance in light of the research.

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.

ACAS’ Head of Equality, Stephen Williams, said:

"Businesses are perfectly within their right to have rules around appearance at work but these rules should be based on the law where appropriate, and the needs of the business, not managers' personal preferences.”

"Almost a third of young people now have tattoos so, whilst it remains a legitimate business decision, a dress code that restricts people with tattoos might mean companies are missing out on talented workers.”

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.


While it is understandable in theory that a visible tattoo should not influence the decision of an interviewee, it will no doubt take some time before it becomes a norm for professionals and employees of corporate entities fashioning tattoos.

Care must be taken not to be discriminating (though of course, there is no law on discriminating against someone with a tattoo).


Should you wish to have a more forward thinking policy on dress code, or have any questions in relation to the above, please contact Mr Koichiro Nakada on koichiro.nakada@3hrcs.com or Yoko Nakada on yoko.nakada@3hrcs.com.
For further information, please contact Koichiro Nakada – Head of Japan Business Group (koichiro.nakada@lewissilkin.com) and Yoko Nakada - Senior Associate, Deputy Head of Japan Business Group (yoko.nakada@lewissilkin.com).
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