Perhaps employers should now draw on tattoos…

MANY people have tattoos these days, although some of us prefer to remain without illustrations. My skin is a blank canvas where the tattooist’s needle is concerned, and likely to stay that way.

But tattoos aren’t going to go away. Although the picture can last longer than the whim that inspired it, plenty of people put a lot of thought into their dermal artwork. So should their choice of self-decoration see them rejected for a job?

According to a report for the conciliation service Acas, employers could be missing out on good staff because they are rejecting tattoos. Acas asked researchers from King’s College, London, to look into this brightly coloured matter, and found that tattoos are still considered unacceptable in many workplaces, with the airline industry taking a particularly hard line.

The report also said that “employers should be thinking about relaxing dress codes in general”, according to the BBC website.

In a short film to accompany the story, a woman from a tattoo parlour says: “Sometimes the people who have the most beautiful work on them have the most beautiful minds.” Now that isn’t going to impress employers who have unbeautiful minds, but I rather like the sentiment.

The story on the website quotes academic Andrew Timming, of St Andrews University, who has researched the role of tattoos in hiring. He believes that a change in attitudes is inevitable. “There’s a tidal wave of young people with tattoos these days and they’re not always going to be young,” he said. “Employers are going to have to accept that they’re integral to the fabric of society and accept that they may potentially have a place at work.”

One man whose tattoos have not harmed his work prospects is the York baker Phil Clayton. Phil runs the Haxby Bakehouse and is the baker of good Yorkshire sourdough bread. He was on the cover of the Yorkshire Post Magazine on Saturday.

Or rather there was a close-up of him holding a beautiful-looking loaf and clearly displaying the tattoo on the inside of his arm. Phil has what appears to be a long ear of wheat on his arm, a proud symbol of the trade he has made his own since setting up the bakery eight years ago.

Incidentally, I did a five-hour shift with Phil two or three years ago for a feature and don’t recall the skin etching at the time, but he has become something of a super-star baker since then. He was a one-man band back then, but now employs other staff, just as well as the bakery turns out 1,000 loaves on a Friday night.

According to the features editor of the Yorkshire Post, the picture of Phil marked the first time they’d had a tattoo on the cover.

Do double standards exist towards tattoos in the workplace? I think perhaps they do when you consider that the likes of David Beckham are feted for their tattoos, while someone turning up at a job interview can be shunned for their inked-in skin.

Of course Beckham, like Phil the Haxby Baker only rather more so, can do what he likes. Whereas someone seeking a job is at the instant mercy of an employer’s likes and dislikes.

Nowadays tattoos are very common – and no longer in the snobbish sense. Around a fifth of people are thought to have tattoos, which are most prevalent in those under 40.

So having a closed mind about tattoos is going to become a bad idea soon, if not already. Although I must say that tattoos on the face would be a no-no for me if I was interviewing someone for a job.

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