Pensioners could be shortchanged

Older married women should check if they qualify for a higher state pension, says Paul Lewis

Woman looking concerned at laptop

Tens of thousands of older women are being paid too little state pension. The women who may be underpaid are all born before 6 April 1953. That means they get the old state pension, not the new one. It does not apply to younger women.


When a husband reaches statepension age, his wife can get a pension based on his National Insurance Contributions of 60 per cent of the basic pension, which currently comes to £80.45 a week.  That applies even if he – but not she – is on the new state pension. If she has a state pension less than £80.45 a week or none at all, it is topped up to that amount. Nowadays that higher pension should be paid automatically when her husband reaches 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.

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Research done by former Pensions Minister Steve Webb indicates that there could be tens of thousands of women married to men born before 17 March 1943 who did not apply for the upgrade and still get less than £80.45 a week. There may also be some with younger husbands who,mistakenly, were not upgraded  automatically.

Not every woman in this position will be due extra pension. Her husband must normally have a full basic state pension – currently that is £134.25 a week. It’s only his basic pension that counts, not extras like additional pension. If he was originally given less than a full basic pension – called Category A – then his wife’s pension on his contributions may be less than £80.45.

However, a married woman who does not get what is called a Category BL pension (see your original DWP pension paperwork) and has a basic pension less than £80.45 a week should still claim the extra and may be successful.

To see if you may qualify, use this calculator: If you think you may be due extra pension, apply as soon as
you can because the DWP normally only backdates the extra pension 12 months.

To claim, call the Pension Service on 0800 169 0154 or at search “pension service”.

Paul Lewis presents Money Box on R4

Pension and retirement planning advice – find out more