Air New Zealand has ended its tattoo ban but how is ink received in UK companies?

Does having a tattoo affect your chances of bagging a top job? [Photo: Getty]
Does having a tattoo affect your chances of bagging a top job? [Photo: Getty]

In a bid to encourage staff members to express “individuality or cultural heritage”, Air New Zealand has ended its ban on tattoos.

From September 2019, all employees from ground staff to cabin crew will be permitted to showcase “non-offensive” tattoos in the workplace.

The decision comes following five months of research carried out by the airline which discovered that one in five adults in New Zealand have at least one tattoo.

While more than 35% of people under the age of 30 boast some form of ink.

But where do UK employees stand in regards to body art?

How many people in the UK have a tattoo?

According to a 2018 study into global tattoo culture, 38% of respondents have at least one tattoo.

Though they’re aren’t satisfied just yet, as three quarters of ink fanatics have two or more - with the strong likelihood of having more done in the future.

Interestingly, the UK is the eighth most inked spot in the world with Italy stealing first place thanks to 48% of residents sporting body ink.

Following closely behind is Sweden with 47% of the country displaying tattoos while 46% of US residents regularly go under the needle.

Are you less likely to be hired for having a tattoo?

Despite tattoos becoming commonplace, a 2018 YouGov survey found that ink still heavily influences a recruiter’s decision on whether or not to employ someone.

According to findings, six out of 10 employers said they are less likely to hire a candidate if they boast a face tattoo.

While a further 17% of UK bosses are “slightly” less likely to hire a candidate with any form of tattoo - no matter how small or discreet.

Woman with a sleeve tattoo
17% of UK bosses are less likely to hire you if you boast body art [Photo: Getty]

When it comes to sleeves, which grew in popularity during the early noughties, employers aren’t sure what to make of them.

Half of respondents said they’re less likely to hire someone with one while neck and tattoos are a big no-no with 66% admitting that they would frown upon it during an interview.

READ MORE: The celebrity guide to tattoos

Tattoos and the UK police force

Back in 2012, the then Met Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, ordered that all visible tattoos must be covered up while on duty due to ink affecting the UK police force’s professional image.

Last year, these rules were relaxed by Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, as the strict guidelines affected recruitment with one in three people in the UK now boasting a tattoo.

“Many young people are ruling themselves out of joining us because of their tattoos,” Dick said. “We hope this will show we are a modern service. A huge number of young people carry tattoos and we want to get the best of London in.”

A London police officer showcasing his tattoos while on duty [Photo: Getty]
A London police officer showcasing his tattoos while on duty [Photo: Getty]

But if you’re signing up, then a number of forces across the nation will ask for photographs of your ink - regardless of how intimate they may be.

Among the forces that ask for images of all tattoos are Kent, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire. This is common practice in order to prevent any members of the police force showcasing offensive ink.

Meanwhile, forces in South Wales, Devon and Cornwall do not allow any visible tattoos at all.

READ MORE: Why we should be embracing tattoos in the workplace

The cultural differences surrounding tattoos

In March 2018, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) rolled out a ban on showing tattoos on the pitch.

Football fans noticed that Chinese players covered their ink with long-sleeved tops, bandages and running tights.

"China promotes cultural confidence among nationalities and core socialist values, so as the national team, it has a responsibility to provide a healthy football culture for society and work as an example in this respect,” a senior CFA official revealed at the time.

Footballer Shihao Wei covered his tattoo with a bandage during the match [Photo: Getty]
Footballer Shihao Wei covered his tattoo with a bandage during the match [Photo: Getty]

Similar rules apply in the Japanese sporting world, as tattoos have been linked with Yakuza - the Japanese mafia - since the 1960s.

At last year’s Rugby World Cup, UK players were told to cover their ink in order to be respectful of the culture.

In 2016, Japan's tourism agency asked spas, a large number don’t allow people in with tattoos, to relax their rules in a bid to promote business from abroad.

READ MORE: The ultimate guide to Angelina Jolie’s tattoo collection

Can you be fired for getting a tattoo?

In the UK, tattoos are not mentioned in the laws on workplace equality. Therefore, an employer is entitled to make their own recruitment decisions based on your body art.

The only exception to the rule would be in regards to religious marking under the 2010 Equality Act if sufficient evidence is provided.

So before planning your next ink, it’s important to familiarise yourself with the dress code at your place of work.

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