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Tattoos in the workplace: should they influence a business’ approach to recruitment and retention?

Published 27 September 2016

The debate about whether or not tattoos are a negative mark in the workplace was sparked again by a former star of The Apprentice. Margaret Mountford, lawyer and businesswoman, has reportedly said that tattoos can affect young people’s chances of a good job.

The former right-hand woman to Lord Alan Sugar on the hit BBC show is quoted as saying that there are swathes in the workplace and people do not want to see someone with a tattooed arm in reception, washing their hair at the hairdressers or serving in a restaurant (1).

Margaret Mountford’s comments followed the publication of a report (2), which found that having a visible tattoo may increase a candidate’s chances of getting certain jobs.

The study (2) was carried out by the University of St Andrews, which questioned 192 people with managerial experience in the UK and US.

It found that some of those quizzed would hire a jobseeker with a tattoo on their face for a hypothetical job behind a bar. They also believed the inking can positively convey an organisations image, especially for a business aimed at younger people.

The issue of displaying tattoos in the workplace has long been the topic of much discussion and controversy. There are tales of people who have lost jobs, missed out on promotions and had interviews terminated as a result (3).

In UK law employers can make decisions on who they hire based on body art (4). The possible exception will be religious markings, which can be contentious.

Acas state that some organisations may feel that tattoos and piercings are at odds with the ethos or image they are trying to project. As a result they may justifiably ask workers to remove piercings or cover tattoos while in the workplace.

But the guidance, which is under the heading dress code, urges employers to 'carefully consider' the reason behind imposing a rule - as there should be 'sound business reasons' for it (5).


  1. job A former panellist on TA has warned school pupils that getting tattoos can affect their chances of getting a. Tattoos are “a real problem for young people” warns ex-The Apprentice panellist Margaret Mountford to Benenden School pupils [Internet]. Kent Online. 2016 [cited 2016 Sep 27]. Available from:
  2. 2016 | Tattoos can be a “positive” addition to the workforce | University of St Andrews [Internet]. [cited 2016 Sep 27]. Available from:,705822,en.php
  3. “I lost a job because of my tattoos.” BBC News [Internet]. 2014 Sep 22 [cited 2016 Sep 27]; Available from:
  4. Kelly J. Should anti-tattoo discrimination be illegal? BBC News [Internet]. 2014 Aug 18 [cited 2016 Sep 27]; Available from:
  5. ACAS. Dress code and appearance in the workplace | Advice & Guidance [Internet]. ACAS. 2014 [cited 2016 Sep 27]. Available from:

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