Charlotte Tumilty: Tattoos are common, but the law offers no protection

Postscript: Last autumn the trainee teacher from Hartlepool discovered not everybody shared her appreciation of body art

Katie Grant
Saturday 17 October 2015 12:37 BST
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Ms Tumilty was sent home on her first day of work when staff objected to her tattoos
Ms Tumilty was sent home on her first day of work when staff objected to her tattoos

Tattoos are so commonplace these days you’re more likely to be branded a deviant if you choose to go ink-free. Charlotte Tumilty is one of the millions of Britons to have gone under the needle. She has multiple inkings – on her arms, neck and fingers.

But last autumn Ms Tumilty, from Hartlepool, discovered not everybody shared her appreciation of body art; the trainee teacher was sent home on her first day of work at a Catholic primary school when staff objected to her tattoos.

Her case prompted debate about whether anti-tattoo discrimination should be made illegal. Under UK law, workers have no protection under discrimination legislation for having a tattoo. Ms Tumilty’s image was splashed across the pages of newspapers as far afield as China and Russia, alongside hostile headlines such as: “Would you want this woman to teach your child?”

“People said I looked like a child killer,” Ms Tumilty told The Independent. “But other people said: ‘If she has the qualifications and the mind to look after your children, what’s the problem?’”

Ms Tumilty, 27, has had to abandon her dream of becoming a teacher. “I always wanted to be a teacher. I’d been working at nurseries and schools for years. The kids loved me. My art teacher at school had bright pink hair and a nose piercing. I used to love going to her lessons. If you have someone fun and quirky to be around it inspires you to stick at it.”

Now dividing her time between looking after her two daughters, aged one and five, and modelling, Ms Tumilty does not hold a grudge against the school that dismissed her. “I’ve got two children at home to teach,” she said. “My older daughter wants to dye her hair pink, get her nose pierced and get lots of love heart tattoos. I tell her: ‘You can have what you want – when it’s legal’.”

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