Lancaster and Morecambe speaks out on taboos surrounding tattoos

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Reporter Gemma Sherlock looks at whether there is a taboo surrounding tattoos in society and the workplace.

Tattoos – artwork once considered taboo is now the norm with one in five Britons having some form of ink on their body.

The tattooing industry flourished during the 19th century when sailors would return home bearing souvenirs of their travels in the form of controversial designs.

Now almost a third of young adults are covered in body art in various forms including floral designs, memoriam portraits and personal quotes.

The world has been following the latest ink trends from fellow celebrities including David Beckham, and Cheryl Cole’s famous flower design.

Yet although tattoos are on the increase some are finding there is still a taboo surrounding the trend in society and the workplace.

The Equality Act 2010 states employers are not allowed to discriminate against job applicants or employees on the grounds of race, sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or disability.

It doesn’t detail employer’s positions to personal appearance, including tattoos.

A Lancaster solicitor has faced backlash outside the courtroom because of his choice of body art.

John Halewood-Dodd, of LHD Solicitors, has tattoos on both forearms since he was a young man and doesn’t show them off at work – often wearing long-sleeved shirts to cover up.

John said: “When I first became a lawyer I remember playing football, representing the local lawyers in a charity match, where my tattoos were visible and adverse comments were made following the game.

“I recall someone saying that the standards of the profession were slipping. If anything, comments like this spurred me on to prove dinosaurs like that wrong.

“I now have a full sleeve tattooed on my left arm and my right will be similar in the near future.”

A survey recently conducted by search engine Ask Jeeves revealed nearly 30 per cent of 16 to 44-year-olds have a tattoo with only nine percent of over 60s having one.

Lancaster tattooist Emma Kierzek has said society is more accepting but admits she would never tattoo anyone in an area where she believes it would affect their career.

Emma said: “I think people are definitely more accepting, not everybody is going to agree.

“That one person who is interviewing you may see it as a problem, so you cover yourself in these situations which is crazy. You don’t want people to look and judge you off that but you have to think about other people’s opinions and respect that.”

Dominic Leighton, owner of the Three Mariners pub in Lancaster, explains why your job preference and lifestyle can influence your choice.

The 35-year-old started off with a tribal tattoo on his left shoulder which eventually spread to his chest.

The dad-of-one has been in the music industry since he was in his 20s and got into tattoos because it was the culture to have one at the time.

He said: “I have come out of the rock scene, at that point tattoos were culturally the norm in that scene, a lot of my friends had them.

“One of our friends Matty Lee was our drummer and he does my tattoos, I think the music scene has promoted that style.”

Dominic is his own boss and has never come across any discrimination towards his tattoos but admits he will cover up and wear a suit when he works at Oakham Ales brewery in Peterborough.

He said: “For two weeks nobody there knew I had tattoos, I wore a suit to work to cover it up.

“I think tattoos are taboo on places on the body, like the neck, hands, there is still a stigma there.

“If somebody was coming to me for a job who had a tattoo it would not alter my decision as long as they were not inappropriate.

“One of our barmen has got two sleeves (tattoos on both arms) and I would never tell him to roll his sleeves down.

“If there were on hands, head or neck then I’m not sure, there is a line there.

“We have a very wide age range in here but the older generation may not respond well to tattoos in those sorts of areas.

“Tattoos are very personal, if you are personally happy with them what’s the harm?”

Lancaster MP Cat Smith has said society is becoming more accepting towards tattoos as more and more people are turning to the permanent body art.

Ms Smith said: “In the workplace people should be hired or promoted on merit, not on superficial things like whether or not they have tattoos.”

What organisations say about body art for staff

Army

A change to the Queen’s regulations means that body art can now be displayed on the hands and rear of the neck – two areas that were previously banned.

The old policy prohibited excessive markings but this element has since been removed.

However, if tattoos are visible on a passport photo they will still be deemed unacceptable.

What constitutes offensive or obscene has also been detailed.

If body art depicts a sexual act, violence or illegal drugs, for example, it will be in breach of Army rules.

An Army spokesman said: “Tattoos have become more acceptable in society over the last decade, reducing the negative connotations that, in some quarters, have been associated with them.

“In recent years there has been an increasing number of personnel with tattoos on visible areas. There is no evidence that commanders have found these to have an adverse impact on operational effectiveness and as a result there has been reluctance to discharge those who breached the policy.” Last year the Army rejected 336 applications because of offensive or inappropriately placed tattoos, as well as piercings.

Lancaster City Council

A Lancaster City Council spokesman said: “Recruitment is conducted in a fair and transparent way and selection decisions are based on objective and justifiable criteria. Suitability for a post is judged against a person specification and job description and not a person’s image.”

Lancashire County Council

A Lancashire County Council spokesman said: “The county council does not have a specific policy covering employees having tattoos or recruiting people with tattoos.”

Police

A spokesman from Lancashire Constabulary has said there is no formal policy for its staff regarding tattoos in the workplace.

Getting a tattoo? Here’s some tips and advice to make sure you are going to the right place.

1. Ask your friends or someone you know where they got their tattoo from and what they would recommend.

2. Visit as many tattooists as you can and don’t be pressurised into making a decision there and then.

3. Ask to see a portfolio of their work and certificates of training and hygiene or first aid first.

4. Take someone with you who knows the tattoo environment.

5. Trust your instincts, if the place doesn’t feel right and tattooists get defensive when you ask simple questions, leave.

6. Go in with designs, be clear and certain about what you want but at the same time be open to the tattooists suggestions and advice.

7. Don’t shop around for the best price, if someone else can do something much cheaper alarm bells should be ringing, tattoos take time, care and extensive detail.

8. Be confident where you want the design.

9. Think and think again about your decision after all the artwork is going to be with you for the rest of your life.

10. Think some more and enjoy your tattoo!

Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 states: “It shall be an offence to tattoo a person under the age of 18n except when the tattoo is performed for medical reasons by a duly qualified medical practitioner or by a person working under his/her direction.

“You cannot obtain a tattoo under the age of 18 - not even with your parents permission.”