To tattoo, or not to tattoo – that is the question.
Or perhaps a more pertinent one would be: will having one affect your career prospects?
Granted, if you’re a pop star or a footballer, then you can get inked to your heart’s content.
But for the majority of us, it’s something that needs careful consideration.
One in five people in the UK now have a tattoo, yet new research shows many employers still have a negative
attitude to body art in the workplace.
Ex-Apprentice star and businesswoman Margaret Mountford certainly falls into that category.
The former right-hand woman of Lord Sugar says that tattoos are not only “unhygienic”, but they seriously hinder a person’s chances of obtaining a job.
“They are a real problem...because there are swathes of the workplace where it is simply not appropriate,” says the 64-year-old.
“In a reception area of a major company you do not want to be met by a young person with a tattoo up their arm.
“If you work in a hairdresser’s, people do not want to see a tattooed arm washing their hair, or in a restaurant serving them food.”
While Mountford is right that tattoos are still far from widely accepted in the workplace, there is evidence to suggest that attitudes to body art are slowly – but surely – changing.
Edinburgh-based tattoo artist Erik Grieve, who has inked celebrities like John Bishop, Daniel Sloss and Hazel O’Connor, has seen a distinct shift in what customers are comfortable with in terms of body art.
“There is a surge in demand for tattoos on throats and hands, often among those who are younger,” he
says. “Whether it’s right or wrong,
people judge others based on appearance. It’s instinctual.
“There may be a shift in social acceptance, and it does seem to be happening, but it’s part of my job to make
sure that my customers are aware
that having a massive portrait of Donald Trump on their throat might affect their future prospects as a QC.
“My advice is to think about
whether you want to be potentially
limited by your ink,” adds Grieve.
With more young people now
having a tattoo, organisations are
starting to look at whether banning
tattoos is counterproductive.
Stephen Williams, head of equality as Acas, says: “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
Andrew Timming at St Andrews
University, who has researched the
role of tattoos in hiring practices, sees
a change in attitudes as inevitable.
In his research Dr Timming found
there were some organisations where
a tattoo might be deemed an asset –
those marketing towards younger
people, including pubs and clubs or
in the creative industries where it can
be seen as a sign of original thinking.
“Isn’t that what employers are
looking for these days? Someone who
doesn’t always toe the line?”
“Isn’t Richard Branson talking
about disruptive talent in the workplace? This is [that] kind of person.”