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Married women and state pension: Why thousands are missing out

Duncan & Toplis | 6 July 2020

The state pension system has seen a shift in recent years to reflect the modern workforce. While the changes have been positive, it has resulted in hundreds of thousands of married women missing out on extra state pension.

Fortunately, people in this position can now claim more.

When the state pension was established after World War Two, society was very different - men were the main earners in most households and women often didn’t work for long periods of time. In response to this, married women were given a portion of their husband’s state pension and paid less in national insurance. 

However, this changed on 6 April 2016, so that those who reached state pension age before this date could be entitled to a boost to their pension payments in order to top up their savings if it’s currently less than 60% of their husband’s. Unfortunately, many women do not know about this change, meaning hundreds of thousands of women are currently missing out on this boost.

A computer glitch over a decade ago also meant that women whose husbands retired after 16 March 2008 and were supposed to have received this boost automatically, didn’t.

Am I eligible for a pension top up?

It’s important that, if you’re a married woman who retired before April 2016, you check your records to assess whether you should receive this top up to your basic state pension.

To qualify for a full state pension, you need 30 qualifying years of national insurance record if you retired between April 2010 and April 2016, or 38 years if you retired before this. You could have been due a boost to your pension if your basic weekly state pension is less than 60% of your husband’s basic state pension amount. To be eligible, you must fall into the below categories:

  • You are a woman married to a man (same sex marriages and civil partnerships are excluded)
  • You reached pension age before 6 April 2016
  • Your basic weekly state pension is less than 60% of your husband’s basic weekly amount.

The money you’re owed or are entitled to and what should have been done about this depends on when your husband reached retirement age.

  • On or after 17 March 2008 - your pension should have been topped up to 60% of your husband’s amount automatically. If this didn’t happen, you can receive a backdated payment and make a claim to receive the correct rate. 
  • Before 17 March 2008 - the boosted amount was not automatically applied, and you needed to claim it. As many people were not aware of this at the time, it is possible to get backdated payments for one year plus apply for the correct rate moving forward.

It’s important to check that you’re not missing out on this extra pension amount if you believe that you might be eligible. 

If you think your state pension is lower than it should be, get in touch with our tax experts today.

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