Tattoos In The Workplace

Tattoos In The Workplace

As most people may have noticed by now, tattoos have gone pretty mainstream. Anti-ink attitudes have shifted, even in places of employment that have traditionally forbidden workers from displaying their body art. Some of it is driven by inclusivity, but some of it is surely motivated by the need to find staff. The labour shortage is not an easy landscape to navigate when you eliminate a large part of the population (35% of adults in the UK) that has a tattoo.

Vivid Ink - Tattoos In The Workplace
Photo: Virgin Atlantic

Flying with ink

For instance, previously, the airline industry has specifically asked its flight attendants to cover up their ink while on the job and not hired people with tattoos that cannot be hidden by the standard cabin crew uniform.

However, UK airline Virgin Atlantic recently changed its policy, announcing that it had relaxed its restrictions for cabin crew and other uniformed colleagues. It was the first airline in the country to do so, and the carrier said during the announcement, 

“Many people use tattoos to express their unique identities and our customer-facing and uniformed colleagues should not be excluded from doing so if they choose. That’s why, in line with our focus on inclusion and championing individuality, we’re relaxing our tattoo restrictions for all our people. We’re proud to be the airline that sees the world differently and allows our people to truly be themselves.”

Disney and deliveries with tattoos

By Balazs

On the other side of the pond, Disney, UPS, and even the US army have relaxed their visible tattoo restrictions. Delivery giant UPS made a big shift towards employee satisfaction after its new CEO took over the role in 2020. Workers are now allowed to show their tattoos provided they don’t contain any offensive words or images. Meanwhile, they are still not allowed to have tattoos on their hands, heads, neck, or face. 

Disney now also lets employees – referred to as ‘cast members’ – at its theme park show their tattoos. Although these must be below the neck and ‘limited in size.’ For larger tattoos on the arm or leg, employees can wear matching fabric tattoo sleeves. With the high prevalence of Star Wars-related ink, the move may even add to the experience for fans of the franchise and the Rise of the Resistance ride. The company’s chairman said in a statement announcing the updated policy last year, 

“We’re updating the appearance policies to not only remain relevant in today’s workplace but also enable our cast members to better express their cultures and individuality at work.” 

Tattoos in the Met

In the UK, there is no law that says workers cannot be discriminated against for having a tattoo, so it is up to the individual employer. Meanwhile, a couple of years ago, London’s Metropolitan Police partially relaxed a ban on recruiting candidates with body art, saying tattoos would now be considered on a “case by case basis” rather than outright rejection. Before relaxing the policy, about 10% of applicants to the Met were rejected because of tattoos. 

Whether from pragmatic reasons of not wanting to lose out on talent or an authentic desire to let people express their individuality, attitudes towards tattoos in the workplace are definitely changing. And while you may still want to stay away from hand and face tattoos if you are looking to serve in the military or become a ‘cast member’ at Disney World, we are definitely applauding the trend towards more ink-inclusive policies.


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