State pensions for women

People who don’t have a full National Insurance contribution record may not be entitled to a full basic State Pension. But women born before 6 April 1953 may be able to claim an increase to their basic State Pension based on their spouse’s or civil partner’s contribution record.
Key facts
  • Married women over state pension age can claim an enhanced rate of basic State Pension when their spouse or civil partner reached state pension age in cases where they have only a small basic State Pension entitlement in their own right. 
  • Both the woman and her spouse or civil partner must have reached state pension age. 
  • Backdating a claim is possible, but this may be for a maximum of 12 months.
  • Men or women over 80 who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 can claim a pension of £82.45 (2021/22) if that’s more than the basic State Pension based on their own contribution record.

According to recent research, many entitled women are not receiving the amount of basic State Pension they’re due. Some due to a system error at HMRC and some because they never knew they could apply for an increase.

What are the rules?

Receiving a basic State Pension based on a spouse’s or civil partner’s National Insurance contribution record is only possible for women where:

  • both her and her spouse/civil partner has reached state pension age and either:
    • her spouse/civil partner reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 and qualifies for some basic State Pension, or
    • her spouse/civil partner reached state pension age on or after 6 April 2016 and has at least one qualifying year of National Insurance contributions from before 6 April 2016

Under the old system, married women over state pension age could claim an enhanced rate of basic State Pension when their spouse or civil partner reached state pension age in cases where they had only a small basic State Pension entitlement in their own right. 

At 2021/22 rates, the maximum amount of basic State Pension a married woman can claim based on her spouse’s or civil partner’s record of National Insurance contributions stands at £82.45 per week, provided their spouse or civil partner is receiving a full basic State Pension. This is 60% of the full basic State Pension rate of £137.60. If their spouse or civil partner is not entitled to the full basic State Pension because they don’t have a full contribution record as at 6 April 2016 their wife or civil partner will be entitled to 60% of the amount they do receive.

A woman has to have reached the state pension age by 6 April 2016 meaning she was covered by the ‘old’ basic State Pension system before she can claim extra payments based on her spouse's or civil partner’s contribution record. Her spouse or civil partner has to reach state pension age before she can claim. She can only make a claim on her spouse's or civil partner's contribution record before 6 April 2016.

Backdating

Before 17 March 2008, a woman who could benefit from a pension uplift based on her spouse’s or civil partner’s contributions had to make a claim for that uplift. Such a claim could only be made when her spouse or civil partner reached state pension age. If the woman never made a claim at the time, she can make a claim at a later date which will change her state pension for the future, but it can only be backdated by 12 months.

However, after a rule change, where a spouse or civil partner reached state pension age after 17 March 2008, the uplift to a married woman’s pension should have happen automatically, without the need for a separate claim.  If this didn’t happen and the woman subsequently claims the uplift, the claim can be backdated to the date her spouse or civil partner reached state pension age. The government has confirmed they are systematically looking for cases where they may have been a shortfall and will automatically  paid any money due. If a person who is owed money has died, it will be paid to the individual's estate.

Case study 1

When Mrs Anderson contacted the Pensions Service about another matter, they noticed her low level of pension and suggested she might wish to claim an uplift. She made a claim and was awarded an increased pension. Unfortunately, the claim could only be backdated by 12 months, as the rules at the time of her husband’s 65th birthday required the uplift to be actively claimed. As a result, Mrs Anderson has permanently lost out on the years from the date her husband reached state pension age to one year ago.

Case study 2

Mrs Van Dyke was receiving a state pension of around £55 per week when she became aware she could claim a higher pension based on her husband’s National Insurance contribution record. Her husband is aged 70, and therefore reached state pension age after 2008 and had a full contribution record. Mrs Van Dyke should have seen her basic State Pension automatically increased to at least the £82.45 per week rate (2021/22) as her husband was receiving the full basic State Pension of £137.60 per week but this didn’t happen. When this case was raised with the DWP they awarded 5 years’ worth of arrears of over £6,000 plus interest.

Divorced women and widows

In the case of a divorced woman, she can ‘substitute’ the National Insurance record of her ex-spouse or ex-civil partner up to the date at which they were divorced. This calculation should normally be undertaken at the point at which the divorced woman claims her pension. Where a woman has been married (and divorced) more than once, it is the record of her ‘most recent’ ex which applies.

In the case of widows, in general a widow can substitute the National Insurance contribution record of her late spouse or civil partner for her own at the point at which they die, for purposes of calculating her basic State Pension entitlement. Provided her late spouse or civil partner had a full contribution record the widow will in most cases qualify for 100% of the basic State Pension (as distinct from the 60% rate received by many married women). She must have reached state pension age by 6 April 2016 to do this. Widows may also have been underpaid whilst their spouse or civil partner was alive. They may be able to make a claim if their pension had not increased to 60% of their spouse’s or civil partner’s basic State Pension before they died.  

Men or women over 80 

Under the old state pension system, men or women over 80 who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 can claim a pension of £82.45 (2021/22) if that’s more than the basic State Pension based on their own contribution record.

 They can claim the over 80 pension if all of the following apply:

  • they're 80 or over
  • they don’t get basic State Pension or their basic State Pension is less than £82.45 a week (in 2021/22)
  • they were resident in England, Scotland or Wales for at least 10 years out of 20 (this does not have to be 10 years in a row) - this 20 year period must include the day before they turned 80 or any day after
  • they were ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Gibraltar, a European Economic Area (EEA) country or Switzerland on their 80th birthday or the date they made the claim for this pension, if later

It is also possible to claim from Northern Ireland. More details can be found on the NI Direct website.

Further information

Note

The information provided is based on our current understanding of the relevant legislation and regulations and may be subject to alteration as a result of changes in legislation or practice. Also it may not reflect the options available under a specific product which may not be as wide as legislations and regulations allow.

All references to taxation are based on our understanding of current taxation law and practice and may be affected by future changes in legislation and the individual circumstances of the investor. 

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The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The firm is on the Financial Services Register, registration number 117672. It provides life assurance and pensions. Registered in England and Wales number 99064. Registered office: 55 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0RL.