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Could banning tattoos at work be age discrimination?

by on December 5, 2014

It’s Friday afternoon so here’s something not too taxing to ponder. This article by Hannah Ford of solicitors Stevens & Bolton LLP, examines the issue of appearance in the workplace.

As she points out, it’s common for employers to demand that their staff project a specific image by imposing a “Dress / Looks Policy” by requiring employees to modify their appearance so as to meet business and societal norms. And of course those norms can create a form of ‘lookism’ within and beyond specific organizations, and potentially involving norms about age.

So here’s a thought from the piece. “With statistics suggesting that less than 5% of over 65s have a tattoo, issuing a blanket policy forbidding tattoos may unwittingly highlight generational prejudice. If reliable statistics could be unearthed to support a disadvantage to a particular age group, one could envisage an imaginative young worker shoe-horning a claim into the age discrimination framework on the basis that such a policy was indirectly ageist. It may of course be possible for an employer to successfully objectively justify such treatment, for example on the grounds of promoting a professional or corporate image; however these are untested waters.”

Food for thought.

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