The State Pension explained

Last updated: 02 Apr 2024

This article provides some essential information about the State Pension including how it is calculated and when you can claim it. 

How much is the State Pension?

The State Pension system was reformed from 6 April 2016. People reaching State Pension Age after that date qualified for a new, flat-rate pension benefit.

From April 2024, the full rate of the new State Pension is £221.20 per week.

The amount of State Pension you get depends on your National Insurance record.

You get a qualifying year towards the State Pension if:

  • You are employed and earning over £123 per week from one employer
  • You are self-employed and paying Class 2 National Insurance (£3.45 per week)
  • You are paying voluntary Class 3 National Insurance (£17.45 per week)
  • You are eligible for National Insurance credits (eg claiming Child Benefit for a child under 12, get Carer’s Allowance, get Employment and Support Allowance)

A minimum of 10 qualifying years are usually needed to qualify for any State Pension.

You need 35 qualifying years to get the full new State Pension (further National Insurance contributions or credits beyond 35 qualifying years do not result in any additional benefit).

Anyone with between 10 and 35 qualifying years will receive a pro rata amount of State Pension (eg someone with 20 qualifying years would receive 20/35ths of the full rate of State Pension).

The system that applied before 6 April 2016 determines the State Pension benefits payable to people who reached State Pension Age before then but can also affect the amount of benefit that people with qualifying years under the old system might be eligible for now.

You can check your own State Pension forecast using this link:

Check your State Pension forecast – GOV.UK (

If you are forecast to get less than the full rate of the new State Pension, then you can consider whether it is worthwhile to pay voluntary (Class 3) National Insurance contributions to boost your entitlement.


At what age will you receive the State Pension?

State Pension is payable from State Pension Age. This is currently 66. It is set to increase to 67 between April 2026 and April 2028 and that timetable was recently confirmed by government. It is set to increase to 68 between April 2044 and April 2046, but that timetable could change.

You can check your own State Pension Age under the current legislation using the calculator available from:

Check your State Pension page – GOV>UK (

State Pension Age is subject to regular review and will probably change in the future (though you should expect to get at least 10 years’ notice of any change).

An explanation of how your State Pension Age might be affected by the latest review is available here:

Could you be affected by the decision not to change State Pension Age? | Prospect


Claiming the State Pension

Unlike workplace or personal pensions, there is no option to draw the State Pension early. This means State Pension Age can determine when some people are able to retire (if they cannot afford to retire until their State Pension becomes payable).

You will not get your State Pension automatically, you have to claim it. You can do this online through the following link:

The new State Pension: How to claim – GOV.UK (

If you do not claim your State Pension at State Pension Age, it will be deferred until you claim it a later date. Deferring your State Pension could increase how much you get.

Once in payment, the State Pension will be increased over time. The rules governing increases can get be quite complicated.

In general, the new State Pension (and the Basic State Pension in the old system) must be increased by at least average earnings.

Current policy is for a “triple lock” (increase by the greatest of price inflation, earnings growth or 2.5%) to apply to these pension benefits.

Other elements of State Pension (eg increases from deferring State Pension or the Additional State Pension in the old system) must be increased by at least price inflation.

More information on the rules that apply to the annual increases for different elements of the State Pension are covered in more detail in Calculating the Annual State Pension increase.