The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed their latest awareness campaign to ensure that UK businesses are conscious of their duties in setting up workplace pensions for all of their employees. The campaign is called ‘Don’t Ignore It’ and focusses on a loveable multi-coloured monster called ‘Workie’.

The Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan-Smith has allocated a massive £8.45 million on this advertising campaign which includes huge billboard spots in locations such as Piccadilly Circus as well as social media, radio and television advertisements.

What Does Workie Do?

Workie’s goal is to turn pensions from a daunting and challenging subject into something fun and accessible to the general public. Those behind the campaign are describing the monster as the ‘striking physical embodiment of the workplace pension’.

Auto Enrolment

If successful, the existence of ‘Workie’ should make all bosses aware of auto-enrolment. Employers that have at least one member of staff are required to auto-enrol their workers in the workplace pension scheme. Some employers are unaware that this rule doesn’t simply apply to businesses but will affect anyone that directly pays the wages of a cleaner, a nanny or perhaps a chef or carer. Employers need to enrol any worker into the workplace pension scheme who fits the following criteria:

  • Employees who are not already enrolled into another workplace pension scheme
  • Employees who are aged between 22 and the state pension age
  • Employees who earn more than £10,000 per annum
  • Those who work in the UK

Staging Dates

Employers are legally obliged to comply with these regulations, which have been brought into effect over a six year staging process which started in 2012. Employers have a responsibility to find out their staging date and take action to ensure that they are compliant.

Since 2012, over 5.4 million workers of medium to large businesses have been auto-enrolled. However, it is now the turn of those who work for small and micro-businesses with less than 50 members of staff in the organisation. It is thought that 1.8 million of this type of employee will benefit from being brought into the workplace pension scheme.

Negative Criticism

The character of ‘Workie’, who has replaced previous high-profile business faces such as Baroness Karren Brady and Theo Paphitis, has attracted a great deal of criticism on social media as well as many involved in advertising and marketing. Much of the disapproval is based on the expensive price tag of the campaign at a time where disability benefits and other budgets are being slashed. The campaign, which comes with the Twitter tag #DontIgnoreIt, attracted a wave of negative tweets such as “This is Workie. IDS has spent £8.5m to bring this propaganda abomination into the world during an age of austerity.”

Elephant in the Room

However, even those who vehemently disapprove of ‘Workie’ would be unable to argue with the amount of publicity that the campaign has already generated. Love him or hate him, ‘Workie’ is the elephant in the room at many different workplaces and employers who are unable to ignore him will likely be reminded to visit the Pension Regulators site, thereby fulfilling the campaign’s goal. Employees will also be attracted to this cuddly creature, who is reminiscent of Alexander the Meerkat of fame, and will be persuaded to find out about the benefits of staying enrolled in the workplace pension scheme.

Time will tell if the introduction of ‘Workie’ manages to sign all of the outstanding small businesses up to auto-enrolment, but for now it seems that this controversial character has got everyone talking and there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Gary Keeley is the founder of The Workplace Pension Consultancy, which provides advice and consultation for SMEs who are looking to set up auto-enrolment for their staff.