Think before you ink! The deal with tattoos and mining

Person getting tattooed
How do mining companies react to tattoos?

Can your tattoos stop you getting a job in the mining industry? Our experts give their insights.

They’re all the rage, with nearly 20 per cent of Australians now sporting at least one tattoo.

Whether it’s a small Southern Cross or a full sleeve (or both), in the twenty-first century getting a tattoo is pretty much a rite of passage.

But can they affect your employment prospects? If you walk into an interview with “love” and “hate” tattooed across your knuckles, could it stop you getting the job?

Well, according to our experts, it depends what kind of job you’re applying for. In the mining industry there are certainly roles for which being completely covered in tattoos should not be a problem.

“It’s not an issue for most roles as staff on mine sites should be covered from head to toe with PPE (personal protective equipment), so tattoos won’t be seen whilst ‘on the clock’,” one of MPi’s mining recruitment experts said.

You still need to think before you ink

Not all roles require PPE, however. What if you’re applying for a job in customer service, an office job, or a very senior position? Our expert, who places hundreds of people in jobs with mining companies each year, says it’s possible “but unlikely”.

But there are always exceptions and often that comes down to what your tattoos depict. The usual rules about decency prevail.

“Any visible and offensive tattoos — for example, racial hate symbols like swastikas, sexual innuendo, images of nudity and, in some cases, displays of gang affiliations — are considered inappropriate,” our experts said.

“In most cases employers do not want to be associated with people’s problematic views as public opinion can have a detrimental effect on a company’s performance.”

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Know your rights on tattoos in the workplace

What does the law say? The Human Rights Commission says it’s appropriate for employers to set rules regarding appearance in the workplace, but there are limits on that. Here’s the example they give on their website.

“An employer had a policy to refuse to hire any workers with visible tattoos, even for roles that involved no customer contact. A Maori job applicant who had a tattoo for reasons connected to his ethnic origin was not hired because of his tattoo. This could be racial discrimination.”

As recently as July last year news.com.au reported there is “no national law stopping employers from banning tattoos in the workplace, or from dismissing a job applicant because of their tattoo”.

“Physical appearance is not a protected attribute under the Fair Work Act,” a Fair Work Ombudsman spokeswoman told the news site.

So, has having a tattoo ever stopped someone getting a job in mining? Well, occasionally. One of our experts knew of someone who had been declined for a corporate role; but another’s answer to that question was “not to my knowledge”.

What employers really care about is your ability to do the job.