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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.

In this article
Will I get the state pension? What is the state pension age? How does National Insurance for the state pension work?
Who qualifies for basic state pension? What is the second state pension?

Will I get the 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 (if you qualify after April 2016) and, if you aren't in work, either pay voluntary National Insurance or be credited with them from the government. 


What is the state pension age?

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. 

It increased to 66 in October 2020 and will rise again to 67 between 2026 and 2028.

Note - In July 2017, the government announced its intention to increase the state pension age from 67 to 68 between 2037 and 2039, which is seven years earlier than previously planned.

This means that those born between April 1970 and April 1978 can expect their state pension age to be 68 and not 67 (as the calculator results will show), but this this hasn’t yet been approved by parliament, so the full amended timetable isn’t available.

To find out 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.



Note that the calculator does not currently reflect the increase in state pension age occurring in 2037. We will update the tool when the government publishes more information. 

How does National Insurance for the state pension work?

The amount of state pension you will receive depends on how many years you've paid National Insurance contributions. 

To claim the full state pension you need 35 years (it increased from 30 years in April 2016).

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

If you earn at least £120 a week (£6,240 a year), or are receiving working tax credit, you'll be making National Insurance contributions to the state pension.

Or 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. 

What is 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.

Find out more in our guide to the State second pension and Serps.