You decide to grab another cup of coffee at the office. As you turn a corner, there it is--a large multicolored creature with horns. Your workplace pension is staring directly at you.

You might be wondering why a cartoon character masquerading as a workplace pension would be lurking in the hall.

Allow me to explain.

The U.K.’s Department for Work and Pensions introduced a new mascot, Workie, in October to introduce smaller employers and their employees to the next phase of automatic workplace-pension enrollment. 2workie

The department calls Workie the “physical embodiment of the workplace pension.” The mammoth mascot visits workers and asks them not to ignore him. Furry and with big eyes, Workie is difficult to ignore.

Under the Pensions Act of 2008, every employer in the U.K. must include employees in a pension program and contribute funds. Employers with at least 30 employees already should be enrolled. Those with fewer than 30 employees can start enrolling Jan. 1, 2016, with the initial signup period ending April 1, 2017. The penalty for noncompliance can reach 50,000 pounds ($74,700).   

The campaign, promoted on social media with the hashtag #dontignoreit, was meant to grab people’s interest and attention. The campaign website has more information, tools and videos. I highly recommend the Workie videos.

The U.K. is not the only country to promote its less-than-sexy social security initiative with a mascot. Japan’s rabbit character, Maina-chan, encourages awareness of the new “My Number” system, which rolls out in January 2016. Miani

Under Japan’s Social Security Tax Number System, a number is to be assigned to each individual who legally resides with a resident registration for payroll and social security purposes. Japanese nationals and foreign residents in Japan who are registered with a local municipality are to receive a 12-digit number, known as “My Number.”   

Employers would be required to collect and manage numbers to withhold taxes for employees, including part-time workers. The numbers are not to be used for employee identification.

But nothing compares with the “Star Trek” campaign by the U.S. Social Security Administration that was launched in 2011 and starred George Takei and Patty Duke. The goal of the campaign was to encourage Americans to apply for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits. In one video clip, Duke tells a skeptical Takei that navigating www.socialsecurity.gov is “so easy even Kirk could do it.”

Social security programs may not be the most exciting topic, but every once in a while, a fuzzy and colorful Workie comes along and forces everyone to pay attention. #dontignoreit


Take a free trial to Bloomberg BNA’s International Payroll Decision Support Network, your one-stop resource for reliable, up-to-date guidance and analysis in every area of payroll administration and compliance.


Credits: Workie, U.K. Department of Work and Pensions; Maina-chan, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretariat