EXCLUSIVE: DWP calls for HR professionals to act as workplace pensions advocates


Employee Benefits Live 2018: HR professionals and employers can help the Department for Work and Pensions communicate the benefits of saving into a workplace pension.

In a session titled ‘Auto-enrolment – what can HR learn from the DWP’s national multichannel campaign’, Mary Hennessey, head of marketing and communications at the DWP, outlined the government’s communication strategy on workplace pension saving, explaining the evolution of the process.

“The objective of the campaign was to ensure people are aware of the benefits of saving into a workplace pension once they are automatically enrolled, especially in context of the increase in minimum contributions,” explained Hennessey.

“Importantly, we also need to ensure that employers comply with their statutory requirements to enrol their eligible staff,” she added.

The auto-enrolment campaign was launched back in 2012 and communications have played a significant role to ensure the policy has remained a success, said Hennessey.

Recent changes mean the campaign has changed tack. Up until 2018, the minimum amount both employers and employees paid into workplace pensions was 1% each. April this year saw the first of two increases in minimum contributions, rising to 3% for employees and 2% for employers.

“The result of that has been steady, with people remaining opted in,” said Hennessey.

However, the second increase in statutory contributions is due next April, rising to 5% for employees and 3% for employers. “This is quite significant,” said Hennessey.

“In terms of how the campaign has evolved, we launched the current campaign back in October 2017 and that was six months leading up to the first increase in statutory contributions. Employees were the primary target. We wanted them to be aware of the benefits and the importance of saving into a workplace pension and continuing to save and not opt out.”

The campaign ran across TV, radio and social media channels. The DWP also ran a separate campaign targeting employers to make sure they were aware of their statutory obligations.

In terms of performance, the campaign has been a success, said Hennessey. “We are delighted that we have reached, and in some cases smashed, our target [key performance indicators]. Importantly, though, we continue to evolve our campaigns and learn, so we know what we need to do in the next burst of campaign activity.”

This is where HR professionals can support the government, said Hennessey. “Employers are a trusted voice for their employees, especially when it comes to talking about financial matters. Employees seek advice on money matters from their employers in a trusted work environment, so it’s perfect to use that as a conduit to talk about the workplace pension.”

So, what can HR professionals do to advocate the workplace pension?

Hennessey said: “We have developed a number of assets to help employers talk to their employees. They include a letter that talks about the benefits of the workplace pension, which employers can put their own stamp on. We are also developing an employer advocacy programme, for which we intend to develop a number of assets and materials.

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“We want to work with HR professionals on how we can help them develop their internal communications on the benefits of planning and saving into a workplace pension.”

Hennessey concluded: “We need to do more and we can all act as advocates for the importance of saving for later life.”