How do I qualify for state pension?

State pension

How do I qualify for state pension?

By Paul Davies

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How do I qualify for state pension?

Find out when you'll qualify for the state pension and how many years you'll need to have worked to get a full state pension.

Not everyone is entitled to the full state pension - your basic state pension depends on you meeting a number of criteria set down by the government. 

You must work in the UK, have reached state pension age, made National Insurance contributions for 35 years (from April 2016) and, if you aren't in work, either pay voluntary National Insurance or be credited with them from the government. 

Go further: National Insurance explained - all the benefits associated with this tax

Here, we explain what age you'll have to be, how long you need to have worked and how you could boost your state pension. 

State pension age calculator

With life expectancy getting longer, the government is having to pay the state pension for longer, and to more people.

To accommodate this greater draw on government revenue, the state pension age is gradually increasing. By 2018, it will be 65 for both men and women, increasing to 66 in October 2020 and to 67 in 2028. The government will then review the state pension age every five years.

To find our exactly when you will qualify for the state pension, you can use our state pension age calculator. All you need to input is your date of birth and whether you’re a man or woman.

Go further: How much money will I need in retirement? - this guide will help you plan a budget 

State pension and National Insurance contributions

The amount of state pension you will receive depends on how many years you've paid National Insurance contributions. To claim the full basic state pension you will need 35 years (from April 2016) but, if you’ve made fewer than 35 years' contributions and at least 10 years' worth, you’ll still get a basic state pension – it will just be adjusted to reflect the number of qualifying years you have.

There are different types of National Insurance contributions. Class 1 contributions are paid by employees, Class 2 contributions are paid by self-employed people and Class 3 contributions are mostly paid voluntarily, usually by people on low wages. 

Go further: National Insurance rates - find out how much National Insurance you'll pay

Who qualifies for basic state pension?

If you're working

You'll qualify if:

  • you earn at least £112 a week (£5,824 a year), or are receiving working tax credit
  • you're self-employed, and paying what's known as Class 2 National Insurance contributions.

If you're not working

If you're not working, or have had a period of unemployment, you can still qualify for the basic state pension. This is through National Insurance credits, which fill in any gaps in your National Insurance record. You'll receive credits if:

  • you've been out of work because of illness, unemployment or maternity leave
  • you're a parent of children under age 12 for whom you're claiming child benefit
  • you're a carer for someone sick or disabled, or a foster carer, or received Carer's Allowance.

You'll also receive National Insurance credits if you are in work, but don't earn enough to pay it. 

Go further: National insurance credits - get to grips with how National Insurance credits work

The second state pension

The state second pension was mostly for employees, designed to top up the amount of weekly state pension you receive. 

Second state pension, sometimes known as S2P or Serps, disappeared in 2016 with the new flat-rate state pension. This means you can no longer build up additional state pension, but the state pension you'll get will reflect any you've accrued in the past.

Go further: Second state pension and Serps - find out how much you could get in additional state pension

  • Last updated: April 2016
  • Updated by: Paul Davies