THE number of people with tattoos has increased in recent years but have attitudes changed to how they are perceived in the workplace? CARYS THOMAS investigates.

A YOU GOV survey in 2015 found that 19 per cent of British adults have had a tattoo. In the same survey, 44 per cent of British adults say they would think no differently about someone if they noticed he or she had a large tattoo.

With more young people - one in three - now having a tattoo, organisations are starting to look at whether banning tattoos in the workplace is counterproductive to business. Research by workplace experts Acas has showed employers risk losing talented employees due to concerns about employing people with visible tattoos.

The study on various aspects of employee appearance also revealed that some public sector workers felt that people would not have confidence in the professionalism of a person with a visible tattoo and some private sector employers, from law firms to removal companies, all raised concerns about visible tattoos in relation to perceived negative attitudes of potential clients or customers.

The research showed negative attitudes towards tattoos and piercings from managers and employees can influence the outcome of recruitment exercises within some workplaces.

Acas head of equality Stephen Williams, said: "Businesses are perfectly within their right to have rules around appearance at work but these rules should be based on the law where appropriate, and the needs of the business, not managers' personal preferences.

"We know that employers with a diverse workforce can reap many business benefits as they can tap into the knowledge and skills of staff from a wide range of backgrounds.

"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 talented workers."

A number of businesses have policies banning visible tattoos, in particular those who work in the public sector. The Police Federation has recently been conducting research on the attitudes of the police service and the public towards officers with tattoos.

They are concerned that with bans on visible tattoos, the police service risks missing out on a generation of talented officers. According to the federation, one in five 18 to 29-year-olds has a tattoo. One in four 30 to 39-year-olds having a tattoo.

Research by the Police Federation suggests as many as 75 per cent of serving officers and members of the public would like to see forces operate a more lenient recruitment policy.

Gwent Police's policy is that tattoos on the face, neck, or hands are not accepted. Their policy is based on guidance from the National College of Policing.

The force accept non-visible tattoos but they have to pass a criteria. Tattoos are not acceptable if they: could cause offence to members of the public or colleagues and/or invite provocation; are garish or numerous or particularly prominent; indicate unacceptable attitudes towards women, minority groups or any other section of the community; or indicate alignment with a particular group that could give offence to members of the public or colleagues; are considered to be discriminatory, rude, lewd, crude, racist, sexist, sectarian, homophobic, violent or intimidating.

Tattoos that could be considered any of the above require a human resources manager to make a decision over. Officers must cover all tattoos, and if on the arms they are required to wear a long sleeve uniform.

The Ministry of Defence in 2014 announced the British Army have eased their ban on visible tattoos. It says tattoos are allowed on hands and the back of the neck, but not on the face or any neck areas that could be visible on passport photos. A spokesman for the MOD at the time said this was because tattoos have become 'more acceptable in society over the last decade' and there is no evidence that commanders have found visible tattoos to have an 'adverse impact on operational effectiveness'.

Chris Silvester, 36, owner of Rock The Ink Tattoo Parlour, in Griffithstown, said he believes there is now more acceptance of tattoos in some professions, but always advises clients that there could be consequences on getting visible tattoos.

He said: "We are very carefully on where the tattoo goes, obviously, some tattoos can be what is called 'job stoppers' if they are on a person’s hands, neck or face.

“I'm of the opinion that as long as the tattoo is not offensive to anybody there is no reason tattoos should stop anybody doing their job.”

He added: "I have actually stopped people having it done; an 18-year-old came in who wanted a tattoo on his hand of a rose. I said to him, you do realise this could stop your potential future employment.

“There is sort of a moral code of conduct - I always check the client knows that there is potential to put their future job prospects on the line.”

Mr Silvester said he has tattooed people's neck, face and hands who have a range of jobs from factory workers to managers.

"There is one guy who is in sales travels across the UK - he has his neck completely done just above the shirt line," he added.

A former maths teacher, Mr Silvester set up his tattoo shop three years ago and said teaching is one of those professions where tattoos are not as accepted.

"I was a maths teacher and had tattoos of pi, a calculator and other maths symbols going down my arm," he said. "I asked the head teacher if I could wear a short sleeve shirt as my tattoos were not offensive as they were maths related, which I thought might get the kids talking about maths in a way.

“But I was told no. I always respected the schools policy and wore long sleeves and kept them covered, even on sports days. In my children's junior school there is a teacher whose arm tattoo is visible - my kids aren't offended by it, and I’m not offended by it.”

Companies are becoming more open-minded of their employees having tattoos, including Starbucks who, in 2014, announced they would allow employees to show non-offensive visible tattoos, as long as they are not on the face or throat. Admiral, the car insurance firm, who employ hundreds of staff at their office in Newport, said they do not discourage staff from getting tattoos.

Richard Thorne, Admiral’s people services operations manager, said: “At Admiral it’s important our staff can be themselves at work. We have a relaxed dress code and as long as it’s respectful and not offensive to their colleagues, we don’t ask staff to dress a certain way or discourage them from getting tattoos.

"We are very proud to offer a unique and diverse culture where people can be comfortable in the workplace."

The Police Federation is due to publish the results of its research on the attitudes of the police service and the public towards officers with tattoos in due course.