Ear piercing businesses are regulated in England and Wales under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. This provides local authorities with powers to regulate ear piercing by requiring businesses to register and observe byelaws relating to the cleanliness and hygiene of premises, practitioners and equipment. It is an offence for a business to trade without being registered or to breach byelaws and such offences may lead to the suspension or cancellation of registration.
This legislation is kept under ongoing review, and there are no current plans to amend the provisions relating to ear piercing.
Ear piercing businesses in London are regulated by local authorities under private legislation which requires licensing and observance of licence conditions. It is an offence for a business to trade without a licence or fail to observe licence conditions. Local authorities also have enforcement powers in relation to ear piercing businesses under Health and Safety at work legislation.
There is no statutory minimum age of consent for ear piercing. Minors, that is, those who are under the age of 18, are able to give valid consent if they are capable of understanding the nature of the act to be done. Furthermore, the courts have held that a parent's right to decide on behalf of his/her child yields to the child's competence to make a decision.
There are no current plans to introduce a statutory minimum age of consent for ear piercing nor to require parental consent for those under 16 years of age. We believe that introducing a minimum age of consent might result in children piercing themselves or each other in an unhygienic or unsafe manner or going to disreputable businesses. However, we keep the position under review.
The Health and Safety Executive has produced guidelines on the enforcement of skin piercing activities for local authorities including advising businesses on adopting a reasonable approach to age of consent issues. The guidelines are available at www.hse.gov.uk/lau/lacs/76.2.htm.