Employers are entitled to insist on particular standards of
appearance in order to maintain the company's image. This means
that employers can ban their employees from having tattoos and the
more radical forms of embellishment such as facial piercings or
unnatural hair colour, such as green or purple.
Employers can also refuse to employ someone whose appearance
does not meet the prevailing standard.
Employers can only ban visible tattoos
It is worth noting that employers cannot ban tattoos or
piercings on principle. The need to maintain specific standards of
appearance allows employers to ban tattoos and piercings which are
visible, not those which are concealed when the employee is wearing
normal work clothes or the staff uniform.
Tattoos for religious, ethnic or cultural reasons
Australian anti-discrimination legislation, it is illegal for
an employer to discriminate against an employee – or
prospective employee – on the basis of race, colour, sex,
sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital
status, family or carer's responsibilities, pregnancy,
religion, political opinion, ethnic, national or social origin.
What this means is that if a person has a tattoo for religious,
ethnic or cultural reasons, such as a Pacific Islander or Maori, it
could be considered to be discrimination to refuse to employ them
because of the tattoo.
Protecting your business from unfair dismissal claims
If you have certain expectations of your employees regarding
appearance, you should have a clear, written policy setting out the
relevant rules. This policy should be clearly articulated to
employees before they accept the job.
It is prudent for employers to seek legal advice on how best to
formulate this and other workplace policies. Failure to implement a
properly drafted policy regarding staff appearance could leave you
exposed to an unfair dismissal claim, as an employee could claim
they had no idea that tattoos were a sacking offence.
An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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