Can You Be Fired for Having a Tattoo in the UK?

Updated on May 22, 2020
LawCat profile image

Kate has over eight years of experience as an employment and personal injury legal executive. She runs LawCat, a legal explanations website.

What does UK law say about employee rights when it comes to tattoos?
What does UK law say about employee rights when it comes to tattoos? | Source

I have received a fair few queries regarding tattoos in the workplace recently. Most of these queries have been concerning the hiring and firing of people with tattoos. Other inquiries have come from people who are concerned that they may be being passed over for promotion or other opportunities because they have tattoos.

It is now apparent that being tattooed can affect people who are employed or looking for employment. This article will explain how the law stands regarding those of us who have tattoos and how this affects our employment rights.

Is It Legal For an Employer to Fire You Because of Your Tattoo?

Yes, it is legal for your employer to fire you because you have a tattoo. You can also be fired for getting a tattoo while employed or for revealing one that you got previously but had kept covered till now.

This may seem very especially unfair if you have worked in a job for many years and you are good at it, happy in your work and have a good working relationship with your co-workers and your boss. However, a company or employer may wish to present a certain image to the public, and your tattoo may not be part of that image. Some employers will request that if you have a tattoo, you keep it covered, either with clothing or plasters. Others will remove you from the workplace, and they are within their legal rights to do so.

If you are employed and do not have a tattoo but are considering getting one in an area that could become visible (e.g. your arm, leg, or neck), then it would be wise to ask your employer about whether this will affect your job first. While it may feel stifling not to be able to decorate your body the way you choose—it is your body, after all—you may need to consider your priorities and potentially delay getting a tattoo or consider changing jobs.

Is It Legal to Deny Someone a Job Because They Have a Tattoo?

Yes, employers are entitled not to hire you because you have a tattoo. If you attend an interview with your tattoo covered and then reveal it after you have got the job, the employer is legally entitled to rescind the offer of employment. As mentioned above, it is entirely up to your employer whether or not your tattoo fits with their company image.

Have You Ever Lost or Been Denied a job Because of Your Tattoo?

See results

Isn’t Firing Someone Because of a Tattoo a Type of Discrimination?

It is not discrimination, as a tattoo is not a disability or a protected characteristic. A tattoo is something you chose to have, and while a tattoo will not make you any better or worse at your job, and many are beautiful pieces of art, tattoos do have a certain connotation in society and are rarely seen as professional.

If you are refused work or fired from your job because of a tattoo, it may feel like you are being discriminated against for the way you look, which is deeply distressing, but this does not qualify as discrimination. The Equality Act of 2010 states that for an action to be considered discrimination, it must fall under one of the nine characteristics listed in the Act. Only then will it be considered unlawful under the Act. At the time of writing, tattoos are not one of the nine listed features.

It has been argued in several forums that tattoos should be protected under the act. This has occurred many times and with such passion that the Act has been amended via a schedule to specifically excluded tattoos. In this schedule, it states that tattoos cannot be considered severe disfigurement (a protected characteristic, as a severe disfigurement qualifies as a disability under the act) and so are not protected.

One day, the law may change to prevent people from being fired or not hired because of a tattoo. The law often changes to reflect society, and if the historically unprofessional connotation of tattoos changes, the law may well change to reflect that. It is doubtful, however, that this protection will come from the Equality Act, which purposefully protects people from discrimination suffered because of something they did not choose and cannot help.

Do you Think Tattoos Should Fall Under the Protection Acts?

See results

I Wasn’t Told I Couldn’t Have a Tattoo. Can I Still Be Fired?

Yes, you can still be fired even if you were unaware of your employer’s policy on tattoos. While it would be good practice for an employer to include their policies on tattoos in your contract or the company handbook, it is not stated in the law that they must do so.

If you are unsure about where your employer stands on the issues of tattoos, then you should speak with them to clarify before you get a tattoo or reveal one that you already have.

Looking forward

In conclusion, an employer has a lot of discretion when it comes to tattoos. It is entirely possible and legal for you to be denied a job because you have a tattoo or fired from a job because you have a tattoo. Being fired or denied employment because of your tattoo is not considered discrimination legally in the UK. This may change in the future, however, as there are many petitions and campaigns out there that want the law to change.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • LawCat profile imageAUTHOR

      Katie 

      23 months ago from Norfolk, UK

      It can be a difficult situation, people in a better world we wouldn't be judged on our appearances but unfortunately, at this point in time, humanity will make judgements based on someones appearances and business will often want to present a certain professional image to the world that doesn't always coincide with a persons preference in body art.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      23 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I agree with what you say. I've only got 1 small tattoo on the top of my left arm, but wouldn't consider getting any large ones. It all depends on the job. I can understand why someone would be turned down or fired because of tattoo's.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)