Ink can limit wearers' jobs, say experts

By Ellen Irvine

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Tattoos are becoming more common in young people but experts say visible tattoos still limit job opportunities with conservative Tauranga employers.

Some job seekers are turning to laser removal to help their career chances.

Tattoos are not grounds for discrimination under the Human Rights Act.

But not hiring a candidate based on a cultural or religious tattoo could be indirect discrimination.

Michelle Wyper of InkOff Laser Tattoo Removal said the average age of people getting tattoos was getting younger - and some were now getting them removed as young as their late 20s and early 30s.

"They got a tattoo of a tiger or something in their late teens, and now they are in a different phase of their life and want them off."

Other clients had received "home job" tattoos when drunk, or got tattoos overseas that did not turn out how they expected.

Miss Wyper said one client was a bank manager with a visible tattoo on his hand.

He had decided to have it removed after his employer had spoken to him about it, she said.

Other clients removing tattoos for work purposes were flight attendants and trainee flight attendants.

Air New Zealand has a policy against visible tattoos.

"I have had a few flight attendants come through lately.

"[The airlines] ask if they have a tattoo, most will say no and then get it removed."

Miss Wyper believed discrimination in the workplace against tattoos existed but was lessening.

"It's only if you have a strict job and it's really competitive."

Claudia Nelson, director of recruitment agency The Right Staff, believed visible tattoos still limited job prospects.

Most employers she dealt with preferred staff to be ink-free, she said. "There are still many managers who dislike visible tattoos and feel they don't look professional, especially in roles with customer contact.

"Here in Tauranga, opinion about tattoos hasn't moved on much over the past few years."

Phill Van Syp, of 1st Call Recruitment, said visible tattoos "definitely" limited job opportunities.

"It's not so much whether employers care about tattoos or not, it's about how you represent a company. Some employers have policies against it."

Mr Van Syp advised getting only tattoos that could be hidden.

"If it affects your ability to earn an income, that's something you have to factor in.

"We are not all rock stars earning royalties, most people have to make a living."

Mr Van Syp said tattoos appeared to be increasingly popular, especially in Auckland, where many people had small visible tattoos on their wrist, behind their ear or on the web between their thumb and fingers.

"I don't really care too much [as an employer] as long as I don't think it impacts on [the company], like if it's swearing on knuckles.

"I just don't see the sense of it. People should be aware it does have an impact."

Jonea Dance, 21, works at Grindz cafe in Tauranga, where several staff have tattoos.

Her five tattoos include one that takes up half her arm, a large one on her thigh, and three "little ones" on her arm.

There's no hiding them, but Miss Dance isn't concerned as she feels certain she wants to work in hospitality, where she says visible tattoos are largely accepted.

"I know this is what I want to do, and it's not an issue. People are getting more used to it."

When she got her first tattoo at 17, Miss Dance was worried it would become an issue if she wanted to go into a professional career.

But now she said she would only want to work in an industry in which her body art was accepted.

However, that was not the case for a friend, who removed a tattoo on his finger after his employer in the aviation industry requested it.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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