For many years, tattoos have been frowned upon in a significant number of workplaces across New Zealand. Employers often see tattoos as ‘trashy’ or ‘inappropriate’. Many New Zealanders are now pushing back against this and calling for fairer treatment of those with tattoos.
In 2019, Air New Zealand announced that it would lift its ban on staff having their tattoos visible. Why? Because tattoos allow the individual to display both their individual and cultural diversity. It’s high time that other New Zealand organisations took their lead from Air New Zealand and follow suit in not discriminating against those with tattoos.
Think of the Māori moko, a tattoo with rich cultural significance that is taonga (sacred) to Māori. Moko portray the knowledge, genealogy, and social standing of the individual wearing one. Each moko contains messages of the tribal and familial affiliations of the wearer. So, why is it that some employers still see tattoos in the workplace as taboo?
This topic impacts an incredible number of New Zealanders, with around 20% of adults having at least one tattoo on their bodies. For the under 30 bracket, that number is even higher, sitting at approximately 35%.
Tattoo designs vary greatly. Of course, if a tattoo is offensive, then it might be reasonable for employers to ask that it be covered. But the reality is that most aren’t offensive at all. Ōtautahi tattoo designs are popular, with many people getting tattoos related to where they grew up or their tribal affiliations.
Employers need to get up to date with the times and stop holding the outdated notion that tattoos inherently somehow make a workplace look bad. Most designs are beautiful, and what better way to express your individuality than to use your skin as a canvas!