Employers more tolerant of hiring inked employees

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2013

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Getting inked may no longer be a barrier to getting hired.

Employers are becoming increasingly relaxed about hiring staff with tattoos, with some happy to let workers show off their ink.

Up to one in five Kiwis was likely to be tattooed - with the odds increasing to one in three if they were under 30, a survey by UMR research in 2009 found.

Christchurch Casino chief executive Brett Anderson said prospective employees were asked about tattoos when applying for any role, but the casino had been relaxing its rules on workers who show off their ink on the gaming floor in the past three years.

"We do have people with visible tattoos. We don't have a hard and fast policy on it. Obviously it comes down to size and style . . . common sense," he said.

No-one had applied for a job wearing a facial tattoo, but the casino did employ several people with neck tattoos, Anderson said.

The Christchurch City Council, which is one of the city's biggest employers, does not have a policy on tattoos.

A spokeswoman said diversity was encouraged but if a staff member had a tattoo that was deemed offensive it would be dealt with on a "case-by-case basis".

The Canterbury District Health Board, which employs about 9500 staff across Canterbury, did not have a specific policy regarding tattoos either, a spokeswoman said.

The New Zealand police did have a policy on tattoos, which stated that employees who had regular contact with the public should consider the possible impact of having visible tattoos.

Staff should not have tattoos in prominent places such as the hands or face, while tattoos on the lower arm needed to be covered up if they were considered inappropriate or offensive, police said.

Inappropriate tattoos included those that were "rude, lewd, crude, racist, sexist, sectarian, or homophobic".

Not all New Zealand companies were keen on allowing inked skin being displayed.

The Press reported last week that a national catering company was awarded $15,000 in costs after winning the right to ask an employee to cover up her tattoos.

The award by the Human Rights Review Tribunal came 18 months after it ruled against employee Claire Haupini when the Spit Roast Catering Company asked her to hide a culturally based tattoo on her forearm while catering a corporate function.

It was also revealed last week that Air New Zealand had recently refused to hire a woman who had a visible moko, or traditional Maori tattoo.

Several Christchurch catering companies spoken to by The Press said they had not had any issues with tattoos.

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Verve Real Food Catering owner Nicky Geddes said: "I'd rather have a fabulous employee with tattoos than a crap one without.

"I'm not going to discriminate on people for their tattoos, but I will on their performance."

Whether she asked a staff member to cover up depended on the size of their tattoo and the job they were doing.

Two young waitresses were fine to leave the "little ones" on the inside of their arms exposed, but a bartender with a full sleeve of ink was asked to wear something over it and weddings were generally tattoo-free events.

"I've done weddings though where I know the couple wouldn't have given a damn and they're covered head to foot themselves.

- The Press

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