State Pension – FAQs

Last updated: 08 Nov 2023

A basic introduction to the State Pension can be found in State Pension explained. Below we provide further answers to additional common questions about the state pension. 

What impact might working abroad have on my State Pension entitlement?

If you lived or worked in another country, you might be eligible for that country’s State Pension. You will need to contact the pension service for that country for more information.

There can also be an impact on your UK State Pension entitlement. If you otherwise fall short of the minimum 10 qualifying years, you might be able to use time spent abroad to qualify for a State Pension.

The countries that can count towards eligibility are: members of the European Economic Area, Switzerland, Gibraltar and countries with a Social Security agreement with the UK.

Countries where we pay an annual increase in the State Pension – GOV.UK (

If you had 8 qualifying years and would not otherwise qualify for a State Pension, but had worked in a relevant country for 20 years and paid social security contributions there, then that would qualify you for a UK State Pension (based on 8 qualifying years, ie 8/35ths of the full rate).


What impact might retiring abroad have on my State Pension?

Your State Pension entitlement is calculated in the same way wherever you live in the world and is payable in most countries in the world. It is paid into a bank in the country you live in or a UK bank or building society account that you have access to.

There can be a big difference in how your State Pension is increased over time depending on where you live.

The State Pension is only increased in countries that are members of the European Economic Area, Switzerland, Gibraltar and countries with a Social Security agreement with the UK.

Countries where we pay an annual increase in the State Pension – GOV.UK (

If you live in other countries (such as Australia, Canada, South Africa) then the State Pension will be frozen and lose its value over time.


Is there a difference in State Pension entitlement between men and women?

Prospect has been campaigning to close the gender pension gap for many years. There is a difference in average State Pension entitlement between men and women and this is a component of the overall gender pension gap.

The difference in the average State Pension paid to male and female pensioners today is largely a function of historic rules (eg there was a time when there were no credits for people looking after young children and the old system was partly earnings-related which favoured men).

However, the new system that was introduced from April 2016 should eliminate the difference in entitlement more quickly with men and women expected to reach State Pension Age with the same average State Pension award by the early 2040s.


Credits for qualifying years when not in paid work and looking after young children

A parent or guardian registered for Child Benefit for a child under 12 will automatically get a credit towards State Pension entitlement. There are a couple of issues to be aware of.

Firstly, if your partner is registered for Child Benefit and does not need the credit, but you do, then you must apply to transfer the credit.

Apply for National Insurance credits if you’re a parent or carer – GOV.UK (

Secondly, if either partner has individual income over £50,000 the High Income Child Benefit Charge will apply. This can lead to people not claiming Child Benefit. However, failing to claim will result in the loss of the credit. It is important to claim and protect your entitlement if you need the credit (and remember, in the future it is possible that the requirement for a full State Pension might be increased from 35 years).


I look after my grandchildren, could this have an impact on my State Pension?

Yes. You may be entitled to receive National Insurance credits if you are a grandparent, or other family member, who cares for a child under 12, usually whilst their parent is working.

This works by transferring the credit attached to Child Benefit from the Child Benefit recipient to a qualifying family member who is providing care for a related child under 12.

In order for there to be a credit to transfer, the Child Benefit has to be claimed in the first place (even if it is not ultimately received due to the High Income Child Benefit Charge).

You can apply for the National Insurance credit to be transferred:

Application for Specified Adult Childcare credits (CA9176) – GOV.UK (


I work irregular hours in part-time jobs (sometimes more than one job at once), does this impact my entitlement?

Employees’ National Insurance contributions are calculated differently from their Income Tax. The difference is not significant for full-time workers but can have more of an impact for part-time workers with irregular working patterns and / or multiple jobs.

Your income tax liability is calculated on your total earnings from all sources over the whole of the tax year.

However National Insurance is calculated on a pay-period basis and separately for each job. This can have an impact on whether your earnings are enough to be considered a qualifying year or not.

If National Insurance was calculated the way income tax is, then whether a year is a qualifying year or not would simply depend on whether your total employed earnings exceeded the annual Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) which is £6,396.

But National Insurance operates on a pay period basis. This means that, for example, if you are paid monthly, you have to have earnings over the monthly LEL (£533 ) in each month for a qualifying year. If your earnings fluctuate and are over the annual LEL for the year, but sometimes under the monthly LEL in some months, that will not count.

National Insurance also operates separately for different jobs. This means that, for example, if you have two part-time jobs that are both paid monthly and earn £300 per month in each (ie £600 per month in total) then this will not count as a qualifying year because the monthly LEL was not exceeded in any single job.

If you are impacted by these issues, then you can consider whether it is worthwhile paying voluntary (Class 3) National Insurance contributions. (See: Link 2)


Is the State Pension I was awarded correct?

Unfortunately it is not always possible to be sure that your State Pension has been calculated correctly. The DWP estimates that 6% of claims in the last year were underpaid.

It is important to try to have a sense-check on the level of State Pension you should receive. If you have been awarded less than the full rate of the new State Pension, is there an obvious explanation for this? Were there reasons for you to expect more than the full rate of the new State Pension, but you did not? If you have any doubts about the amount look into it further.

Women have more reason to check the amount of State Pension they are being paid. A litany of issues, particularly affecting widowed, divorced or older women with poor National Insurance records (because of caring responsibilities or from paying the special reduced National Insurance contribution rate for married women), have been uncovered in recent years.

In its 2022-23 annual report, the DWP estimated that it had underpaid 237,000 pensioners a total of £1.46 billion with more cases to be reviewed. Prospect has called on the government to provide adequate resources to rectify these underpayments as quickly as possible.


Could I be entitled to any other benefits if my State Pension is very low?

Yes, if you are not entitled to the full rate of the new State Pension and have little other occupational or personal pension income then you might be entitled to the Pension Credit.
Eligibility for Pension Credit is assessed on a joint basis with any partner (ie husband / wife / civil partner / someone you live with as a couple).
Pension Credit will top your income up to:

  • £201.05 if you are single
  • £306.85 (jointly) if you have a partner

You can still be eligible for Pension Credit if your income is above these levels in certain circumstances (eg if you have a disability or if you care for someone).

Savings and investments in excess of £10,000 will also be taken into account when assessing eligibility for Pension Credit.

Pension Credit may not be particularly valuable in itselt, but it can provide access to other valuable benefits such as help with housing costs, council tax, heating bills and free TV licences.

For this reason, it is very important to check whether you are eligible for Pension Credit. The latest data from DWP indicates that take-up is only 70%.

You can apply for Pension Credit online through this link:

Information you will need to apply online – Apply for Pension Credit (


Will the triple lock for the State Pension be retained?

There is no provision for the triple lock in legislation. The commitment to increase State Pension (the new State Pension and the Basic State Pension) by the highest of price inflation, average earnings growth or 2.5% is a political promise made ahead of a general election that only applies from one Parliament to the next (and even then, it was not honoured in every year of the current Parliament).

Whether the triple lock is retained in the future depends on whether political parties promise to apply if they form a government after the next general election. A motion passed at the last Biennial National Conference commits Prospect to lobbying for the continuation of the triple lock in the future.


Why was my State Pension not increased by the rate announced by government?

The State Pension is very complicated and different elements can be increased by different rates. Only the Basic State Pension (for people who reached State Pension Age before April 2016) and the new State Pension (for people who reached State Pension Age since April 2016) are increased in line with the triple lock.

If these elements of the State Pension are increased in line with average earnings or 2.5%, this can be different to other elements of the State Pension (such as Additional Pension or increases for deferring State Pension) which will still only increase in line with price inflation.

People who reached State Pension Age before April 2016 may also get an additional increase related to their membership of a “contracted out” occupational pension scheme. So, it is possible for the increase that you receive to be the same as, more or less than the rate announced be government. You can ask for an explanation of the increase that has been applied if you are not sure how this was calculated.


I am a freelancer, how might this impact my State Pension entitlement?

There are three main ways that freelancers might be engaged, and they can impact State Pension increases differently:

  • as an employee on a short-term contract or a series of short-term contracts,
  • through a personal services company, or
  • on a self-employed basis.

If you are an employee on a short-term contract or a series of short-term contracts, then it is more likely that you might have gaps in your National Insurance record in a year, or have fluctuating earnings that are sometimes below the LEL for the pay period or have multiple jobs at the same time without earning over the relevant LEL in any of them. This can lead to a year not counting as a qualifying year towards the State Pension. You may want to consider whether any of these working patterns have impacted on you in this way and whether it could be worthwhile to pay voluntary (Class 3) National Insurance contributions to maintain your record.

If you are engaged through a personal services company, then you many want to ensure that your employed earnings are sufficient to count towards a qualifying year.

If you are self-employed, then your entitlement to State Pension is based on paying Class 2 National Insurance contributions ( £3.45 per week).