Friday, 22 May 2020


Tens of thousands of married women in their seventies or older are being paid too little state pension. Some could be owed £4000 a year. 

You are almost certainly entitled to extra state pension i
  • your husband was born before 17 March 1943
  • you get less than £80.45 a week state pension
Some slightly younger women - aged at lest 67 - and some women with younger husbands may also be due extra money.

The women affected get the old state pension, not the new one which began for those who reached state pension age from 6 April 2016.

These married women are normally entitled to a top up to bring their basic pension up £80.45 a week. However, many did not claim it or it was not paid due to an error by the Department for Work and Pensions. See 'Married women' below.

Some divorced or widowed women may also be entitled to a bigger state pension. See 'Widowed or divorced' below.

Anyone aged 80 or more - men and women, married or not - should normally get a state pension of at least £80.45 a week. See 'over 80' below

Married women 
Nowadays most married women have their own state pension paid for with their own National Insurance contributions. But millions of older women do not. Women born before April 1950 needed 39 years of contributions to get a full pension. If they had fewer than that their pension was reduced and women with fewer than 10 years contributions got no state pension of their own. 

Many married women did not earn enough at work to pay National Insurance contributions or, if they did, they chose to pay the reduced married woman's contribution - known in the past as the  'married woman's stamp'. It did not count towards a state pension. The result is that millions of older married women are only entitled to a reduced state pension of their own, or none at all.

To help them there is a special rule that when a husband reaches state pension age his wife can get a pension based on his National Insurance Contributions. That married woman's pension is 60% of the basic pension – and currently comes to £80.45 a week. 

If a married woman has a basic state pension of less than £80.45 a week or none at all it is topped up to that amount when her husband reaches state pension age. That applies even if he – but not she – gets the new state pension (men born from 6 April 1951 get the new state pension). 

Nowadays that top up to £80.45 a week should be paid automatically when her husband reaches state pension age. However, before 17 March 2008 a married woman who already had a pension when her husband reached pension age had to apply for the upgrade. 

Research done by former Pensions Minister Steve Webb indicates that there could be more than 100,000 women whose husbands were born before 17 March 1943 who get a state pension of less than £80.45 a week but who did not apply for the top-up. Those women were born before 17 March 1948 and are now aged 72 or more.

They can apply for the higher pension now. It will top up their state pension to £80.45 a week and the top up will be backdated for a year. A woman with no state pension will get £4183 plus £80.45 a week for life. 

There may also be some younger women born between 17 March 1948 and 5 April 1953 and some women with younger husbands - born 17 March 1943 or later - whose pension should have been upgraded automatically but was not. Steve Webb's figures show that error did happen in many cases. They can apply for this pension now and, because the mistake was made by the Department for Work and Pensions, it will be backdated to the date it should have been paid. That can be up to 12 years. 

Any married woman who has a basic state pension of less than £80.45 a week should claim the extra. She will probably be successful.

To see if you qualify use this calculator provided by Steve Webb at Lane Clark & Peacock. 

You can claim your extra pension either online at the Pension Service or call free 0800 169 0154.

Widowed or divorced
A widow can use her late husband's record to get a state pension if that would be more than was due on hers. In most cases her reduced pension can be boosted to 100% of the basic state pension - currently £134.25 a week. She can also inherit some or all of his SERPS.

A woman who is divorced can use her ex-husband's National Insurance record instead of her own up to the date of the divorce. If she has had more than one husband then it is only the record of the most recent one she can use to boost her state pension. This should be done when she claims her state pension. But it may not have been so it is worth checking.

Women who are widowed or divorced and get less than the full 100% basic state pension of £134.25 should ask the DWP to check they are getting all they are entitled to. If it was worked out wrongly in the past it could be backdated to the date of that error. 

Call the Pension Service free on 0800 169 0154.

Over 80
Once you reach 80 you are entitled to a state pension of £80.45 a week if your existing state pension is less than that or you do not get one at all. To qualify you must be 
  • aged 80 or more 
  • live in the UK or the EU when you reached 80 or when you claim
  • have lived in England, Scotland, or Wales for at least ten years out of the last twenty.
It is not means-tested and does not depend on your National Insurance record. The full rules are here. 

If you are over 80 but get less state pension than £80.45 or none at all then claim it now. It can be backdated up to a year.   

You can claim your extra pension either online at the Pension Service or call free 0800 169 0154.


Not every married woman with an old state pension of less than £80.45 will be due extra pension. Some husbands themselves had less than a full state pension - they needed 44 years of National Insurance contributions then to get a full one. If he gets less than the full basic state pension – currently £134.25 a week - then his wife will also get a lower married woman's pension. However, it is his basic state pension that counts (called Category A), so ignore all extras like additional pension - what we used to call SERPS - graduated retirement benefit, or extra pension for not claiming it at 65.

If he was originally given less than a full basic state pension then his wife’s pension on his contributions will be 60% of that and will be less than £80.45 a week. But she may still be getting too little and should claim.

People living outside the UK in a country where the state pension is frozen - it does not rise with inflation - may well be getting less than £80.45 a week and not be entitled to any top up. 

23 May 2020
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