TATTOO and piercing studios have backed a woman branded ‘unemployable’ by the job centre.

Hayley O’Neil, 23, of Accrington Road, Blackburn, was told she would struggle to find work anywhere but a tattoo parlour because of appearance.

Ms O’Neil, who has 30 tattoos and 20 piercings, including facial jewellery, was left in ‘floods of tears’ after being told by a Job centre adviser that her first impression made her unemployable.

She flatly denied some national newspaper reports that she was planning to sue the Job centre.

She said: “I’ve been contacted by a careers advisor who is helping me out and he has already looked at my CV.

“I do plan to go back to the Job Centre at some point because that’s my only choice.

“The job centre employee told me that if I put a bag over my head or stood behind a brick wall and they only looked at my skills was the only way I would get a job.”

However, tattoo parlours have jumped to her defence.

Maria Hopgood, manager of Zodiac Piercing And Tattoo Shop on Northgate, Blackburn, said she had interviewed Ms O’Neil for a job last year.

She said: “It was in the middle of the recession. There were a lot of applicants and unfortunately other people had more experience.

“If we had a vacancy and she had the necessary experience then yes, I would give her a job.

“Millions of people have tattoos and are able to cover them up for work. I do not see the big issue. It should be about someone’s ability to do the job and nothing to do with their appearance.”

However, a Burnley tattoo artists of 27 years said he ‘hated seeing’ facial tattoos and that he tried to talk people out of getting them.

Rod Clarke, owner of Skin Fantasy tattoo and body piercing studio, on St James Street, Burnley said: “I advise people to get a tattoo or piercing where they can keep it covered because it really does affect jobs. It’s just the way society is.

“I know a lad who had a Burnley FC crest tattooed on to the back of his head. He did really well in interviews, but as soon as he got up and turned to leave, they could see his tattoo. It took him seven years to find a job.”