Can a husband claim a state pension on his wife’s full NI record?

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Retirement income: Can a husband claim a state pension on his wife


You kindly answered my question during a live chat last year, and asked me to respond with my results. 

I am a 72-year-old male who receives no state pension due to insufficient NI contributions. My spouse, who is 74, receives a full state pension as well as superannuation income.

I asked whether I would be eligible to receive a state pension based on my wife’s NI contributions, and if so would this be backdated?

I have been in communication with the Department for Work and Pensions. Unfortunately, I have been informed that I do not qualify for eligibility as my wife was born before 5 April 1950.

This appears in conflict with the advice you have given me. I should be grateful if you would advise me how to progress this situation.

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Retirement income: Can a husband claim a state pension on his wife’s full NI contribution record?

Steve Webb replies: When I originally replied to your query in the live webchat last year, I originally thought that you would qualify for a partial basic pension on your wife’s record.

But having investigated more fully, it seems that your wife’s date of birth falls outside the relevant range and therefore in your particular case you cannot claim a basic pension based on her record.

I apologise for missing this important detail and I’ll explain the situation in full below.

The opportunity for men to claim a pension based on a wife’s record of National Insurance Contributions under the ‘old’ state pension system was only introduced at the start of this decade and only covers women born between certain dates.

Unfortunately, your wife’s date of birth falls outside this range and so this concession would not apply to you.

However, in the unfortunate event that you were to become a widower, you would be able to inherit part of any earnings-related state pension that your wife was receiving.

Steve Webb: Find out how to ask the former Pensions Minister a question about your retirement savings in the box below

Steve Webb: Find out how to ask the former Pensions Minister a question about your retirement savings in the box below

To understand why the rules are as they are, it is worth looking at how the state pension system has evolved over time.

When the National Insurance system was designed in the 1940s it was based on the assumption that in any given couple it would be the man who was the main breadwinner and his wife would be financially dependent upon him.

As a result, under the old state pension system, women could claim a state pension based on the contribution record of a husband, ex-husband or late husband.

But for many decades there was no equivalent provision for men.

Although many men have a full pension record in their own right and so have no need to claim a pension based on their wife’s contributions, there are some men (such as yourself) whose contribution record is incomplete for whom this unequal treatment has caused them to get a lower pension than a woman in the same position, or none at all.

More recently, it has been recognised that it is unfair to treat men and women differently, and the ability of men to inherit state pension or to claim based on their spouse’s record has been gradually introduced.

But the rules are different for different parts of the state pension system and also depend on when people reached pension age.

For many years, married women have been able to claim a retirement pension at 60 per cent of the full rate based on their husband’s contributions.

This is known in the jargon as a ‘Category B’ pension. But in April 2010 the rules were changed to allow men to claim a Category B pension provided that certain conditions were met.

The main conditions were that the man’s pension in his own right had to be lower than the Category B rate, his wife had to reach pension age after 6th April 2010, and he had to reach pension age after 6 April 2010.

In addition, this is a feature of the ‘old’ state pension system and therefore does not apply to those reaching state pension age after 6 April 2016.

In other words, men covered by the old state pension system can now claim a partial state pension based on their wife’s record but only if their wife was born after 5th April 1950.

From your wife’s age, she would have been born before 1950 and therefore you would not be able to make a claim under these rules.

The rules on inheritance of the state earnings-related pension (SERPS) are – fortunately – more straightforward. If a married woman receiving a SERPS pension dies before her husband, her husband can inherit between 50 per cent and 100 per cent of his late wife’s SERPS pension.

The exact percentage depends on the date of birth of the person who died as set out in the table on the government website here. 

Based on your wife’s age, you would be likely to inherit 70 per cent of any SERPS pension that she receives if you were to outlive her.

ASK STEVE WEBB A PENSION QUESTION 

Former Pensions Minister Steve Webb is This Is Money’s Agony Uncle.

He is ready to answer your questions, whether you are still saving, in the process of stopping work, or juggling your finances in retirement.

Since leaving the Department of Work and Pensions after the May 2015 election, Steve has joined pension firm Royal London as director of policy.

If you would like to ask Steve a question about pensions, please email him at pensionquestions@thisismoney.co.uk.

Steve will do his best to reply to your message in a forthcoming column, but he won’t be able to answer everyone or correspond privately with readers. Nothing in his replies constitutes regulated financial advice. Published questions are sometimes edited for brevity or other reasons.

Please include a daytime contact number with your message – this will be kept confidential and not used for marketing purposes.

If Steve is unable to answer your question, you can also contact The Pensions Advisory Service, a Government-backed organisation which gives free help to the public. TPAS can be found here and its number is 0800 011 3797.

Steve receives many questions about state pension forecasts and COPE – the Contracted Out Pension Equivalent. If you are writing to Steve on this topic, he responds to a typical reader question here. It includes links to Steve’s several earlier columns about state pension forecasts and contracting out, which might be helpful. 

If you have a question about state pension top-ups, Steve has written a guide which you can find here. 

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