When the post-war National Insurance system was created special provision was made for married women who may have been financially dependent upon their husbands in retirement.
Many married women are entitled to a basic state pension at 60 per cent of the full rate because of their husband’s record of National Insurance (NI) Contributions in circumstances where their own record of NI Contributions would provide a lower pension.
Until April 1977 married women could opt to pay a lower rate of NI Contributions (which was known as the ‘small stamp’). However, it has recently been revealed that not all married women are receiving the state pension to which they are entitled. The situation was highlighted by Sir Steve Webb, who was the Pensions Minister in the Lib Dem-Conservative party coalition government, between 2010 and 2015, and is now a partner at law firm Lane Clark Peacock LLP. Steve Webb has called on the Government to take action to rectify the situation to ensure that women entitled to a larger pension receive their full entitlement.
Who does it affect?
The issue affects women born before 6 April 1953 - particularly widows, married or divorced women and those aged over 80 who can claim the basic state pension.
Until March 2008, a married, divorced or widowed woman would have to make a claim to receive this enhanced pension, but, from March 2008, the rules changed to ensure married women would automatically receive the 60 per cent rate based on their husband’s NI contributions as soon as their husband turned 65 (60% of the basic state pension their husband gets at state pension age).
For 2020-21 the full basic state pension is £134.25 per week, and the rate for married women claiming on this basis would be £80.45 per week (60 per cent of £134.25). To qualify for the full state pension, you would need 30 'qualifying years' of NI record if you retired between April 2010 and April 2016, or 38 years before that.
For women whose husbands reached state pension age (SPA) before 17 March 2008 the increased payment was not automatically paid and you needed to claim it. As many women didn't know about this they didn't do so, and have not had the increase. If you're in this group, you can make a claim to start earning at the correct rate and get backdated payments for 12 months.
However, if your husband retired on or after 17 March 2008 and you're not getting at least £80.45, it's because of a Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) error and you could be entitled to an increased weekly rate and be able to claim a backdated pension for all the years since he reached his SPA .
What if my husband has died?
If he had a more complete National Insurance contribution record than you, you should get your basic state pension paid based on his record rather than your own for the period since he died. So if he was able to claim the full basic state pension (£134.25 a week in 2020/21), you should have received that after he died. That should have happened automatically, but if it didn't, contact the Gov.UK Pension Service and ask it to give you a backdated increased payment from the date your husband died.
However, if you were both retired for a time before your husband died, you may be able to claim an increased amount for the period he was alive based on the backdating rules (see above).
The DWP are aware of a number of cases where individuals have been underpaid state pension and are checking for further cases and, if any are found, awards will also be reviewed and any arrears paid.
Attached is an on-line calculator provided by Lane Clark and Peacock (LCP) lawyers, whereby you can check if you qualify; https://www.lcp.uk.com/is-your-state-pension-being-underpaid/
If you think your state pension is lower than you should be receiving, then you should contact the Pension Service. Please also see the attached link; https://www.gov.uk/contact-pension-service