Our summer season set new benchmarks, with temperatures across the country soaring above their usual averages and encouraging us to don the coolest forms of clothing to escape the heat.
With arguably more skin on display than ever before, the latest research from Australian consultancy McCrindle tells us that if you are starting to believe tattoos have become even more popular, then you are right on the money — one in five Australians has at least one tattoo.
For many years, people associated tattoos with groups described as being outside the social centre. Think gangs, bikies and hardened criminals. Stereotypical reactions to those with tattoos ran rife.
But with about 20 per cent of all Australians now inked, tattoos and body art have gained a much wider social acceptance and are increasingly seen as a form of self-expression rather than the domain of those on the fringe.
In fact, one popular and evolving modern-day view of tattoos sees community perception shifting from regarding inking as a form of self-destruction to a strategy for effective personal social branding that reflects such positive attributes as individuality, resilience, confidence and commitment.
But one question remains unanswered: Does this social acceptance extend to employers gradually changing their tune when it comes to hiring those with visible tattoos?
Not so long ago those with body bling would work hard to cover up prior to job interviews so as not to ring alarm bells with their prospective employers. Levels of tolerance did vary from industry to industry but in some workplaces tattoos on display remained an absolute taboo.
In many of today’s modern workplaces, negative attitudes towards the inked may have started to fade, though reaction to body bling is likely to come down to where the tattoo is and the message it portrays.
Some organisations have rightfully recognised that not hiring those with tattoos denies the organisation access to about one-fifth of the available talent pool. With more people getting some form of body art, businesses have become acutely aware of the negative impact of excluding an increasing cohort from their prospective workforce.
And as modern business repositions itself to being more open and inclusive, many employers are less anxious about tattoos in the workplace.
In an era where organisations are fostering diverse and inclusive environments, it seems odd to judge a candidate or employee on something that doesn’t affect their capacity to do their job.
Some of today’s most successful businesspeople make little attempt to cover up their tattoos, acknowledging that we ought to reject any form of stereotyping in our workforces — and that includes unfairly labelling those who sport tattoos and body art.
If you are applying for a position in a trendy clothing outlet, a visible tattoo might be viewed as a fashionable accessory and actually increase your chances of getting the position. Notwithstanding this era of increased acceptance, the skull that is the size of a 50¢ piece and neatly tattooed on the back of your neck will probably work against you if you are trying to secure a position in a fine-dining restaurant.
It is usually not unlawful for Australian employers to discriminate against employees with tattoos.
This means some employers will continue to have in place dress or appearance codes which, for any number of reasons, reject what seems to be a growing movement to allow visible tattoos in the workplace.
So while tattoos and body art are no longer the kiss of death in many workplaces, the best approach for someone applying for a position remains to think before showing off their ink.
That is because the broader community acceptance of your body art has not necessarily made it to a workplace near you. If you remain unsure how your tattoo will be viewed, keep it covered up.
Professor Gary Martin is chief executive of the Australian Institute of Management WA