You can claim the State Pension once you reach State Pension age, whether or not you are still working. How much you get will depend on how many years you have paid National Insurance (NI) contributions (or are considered to have paid contributions), when you paid them, and whether you paid full NI contributions or were in a ‘contracted out’ occupational pension.
A new State Pension was introduced for people reaching State Pension age on or after 6 April 2016. Those who started claiming their State Pension before 6 April 2016 do not qualify for the new State Pension and will continue to receive payments based on the previous system.
Until 6 April 2016, you needed to have paid NI contributions or received credits for 30 years to get a full basic State Pension, and you may also have built up an entitlement to additional State Pension. Most people in work today will have paid NI before and after 6 April 2016, so how much they get will reflect changeover arrangements to the new State pension.
If you don't have a National Insurance record before 6 April 2016, you'll now need 35 qualifying years to get the full new State Pension and usually at least 10 qualifying years to get any new State Pension.
You still build up state pension-qualifying years, even if you take time out from working to raise a family (this wasn’t previously the case).
The easiest way to find out what you will get is to request a State pension forecast. You can do that on-line; or by calling the Future Pension Centre (0345 3000 168 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm) if you’re due to reach your State Pension age in more than 30 days' time; or you can print out and fill in an application form and send it in by post.
It would be a good idea to do this now, in case you have gaps in your National Insurance record and need NI credits, or find that you could get closer to the full new State Pension by making voluntary NI contributions.
To check your State Pension entitlement online you'll need to confirm your identity. If you haven't done it before, it may take around 15 minutes and you'll need relevant information to hand like your National Insurance number, driving license, UK passport, bank account numbers and your mobile phone.
Here are some indicators of whether you are likely to have paid enough National Insurance:
- You will almost certainly have paid NI contributions if you have been in full-time paid work and earning a reasonable wage.
- You will almost certainly have been receiving NI credits if you are registered as unemployed or if you are caring for young children or an invalid.
- If you are self-employed, you are legally required to pay NI contributions.
Common reasons why you may not have the full qualifying contributions are:
- time spent working overseas;
- time spent out of work, but not registered as unemployed or with children to care for;
- earning too little to pay NI contributions. Currently NI contributions are only paid on weekly earnings over a limit set annually. You can find the current rates on the HMRC website; or
- if you earn below the Lower Earnings Limit. In this case, you will not have made NI contributions.
Married women who chose before April 1977 to pay reduced NI contributions – the so called 'small stamp' – are dependent on their husband's pension entitlement.
Eligibility to the new State Pension is on an individual basis, which means married women without enough qualifying years no longer receive a proportion of their husband's entitlement when he dies. The easiest way to find out whether this will affect you is to request a State pension forecast.