Widows pensions: are you being paid the right amount?

This page has been designed to provide information to widows who reached state pension age before 6th April 2016. It aims to help women identify if they have been underpaid state pension in the past and if they are being paid the correct amount now.

This page has been designed to provide information to widows who reached state pension age before 6th April 2016 and who therefore come under the ‘old’ state pension system.  It aims to help widows identify:

  • if they may have been underpaid state pension in the past and
  • if they are being paid the correct amount now. 

This page is purely for information and anyone with any concerns about their state pension should always check with the Pension Service.  We would however be interested to hear of your experiences and you can email LCP partner Steve Webb at steve.webb@lcp.uk.com.

How can I tell if I have been underpaid when my husband was still alive?

Under the rules of the old state pension system, a married woman could claim a basic state pension of roughly 60% of the rate being received by her husband provided both he and she were over state pension age.  The table shows the full rate of the basic state pension and the maximum ‘married woman’s rate’ since 2010.

Year

Full basic pension

Married women's rate

2010/11 £97.65 £58.50
2011/12 £102.15 £61.20
2012/13 £107.45 £64.40
2013/14 £110.15 £66.00
2014/15 £113.10 £67.80
2015/16 £115.95 £69.50
2016/17 £119.30 £71.50
2017/18 £122.30 £73.30
2018/19 £125.95 £75.50
2019/20 £129.20 £77.45
2020/21 £134.25 £80.45

Note: Where a husband receives less than the full basic state pension rate shown in this table, his wife’s pension is reduced pro rata.

It has emerged that thousands of currently married women are not getting the correct rate of pension.  You can read more about this issue in our LCP ‘on point’ paper. 

It follows from this that there are likely to be widows who were not paid at the right rate while their husband was still alive.  In particular, this could be an issue for women whose husband reached state pension age on or after 17th March 2008, as the uplift to the ‘married woman’s rate’ should have happened automatically without the need for any action on their part.

We would therefore encourage widows to check their records to see if the following conditions were met while they were still married:

  • Your husband was on a ‘full’ basic state pension, at the rate shown in the first column of the table AND
  • Your weekly basic state pension was *below* the rate shown in the second column of the table AND
  • Your husband reached state pension age on or after 17th March 2008 OR he was already over state pension age when you reached pension age

If you can answer yes to all of these questions it is likely that you were underpaid in the past and you should contact the Pension Service to ask for your records to be checked. 

How can I tell if I am on the right pension now?

The rules for widows are complex and the amount you receive will depend both on your own record of National Insurance Contributions, on your late husband’s record, whether he was employed or self-employed and whether he was a member of a ‘contracted out’ pension scheme or not.

However, the main things to look out for are:

  • As a widow, your basic state pension can take account of your late husband’s contributions;  if he had a full working life then you should now be getting a basic state pension in line with the figures shown in the first column of the Table above;
  • On top of this, you can receive ‘additional’ state pension (also known as SERPS);  this is in two parts:
    • Additional state pension you built up through your own contributions;
    • Additional state pension that you inherit from your late husband;  you inherit at least 50% of his additional state pension, and a higher percentage if he was born before 6th October 1945;  see here 

Because of the ability to draw an enhanced basic state pension from a late husband’s contributions and to inherit additional state pension, it would be normal for a married woman’s state pension to be increased when her husband dies.  If this did not happen in your case it would be worth investigating why.

Although most widows will inherit some additional state pension from a late husband, there are two situations in which this could be small or even zero:

  • If your late husband was self-employed you can benefit from his contributions in building up a basic state pension but self-employed NI contributions do not generate entitlement to additional state pension;  if he was self-employed you may therefore not have any additional pension to inherit;
  • If your late husband was in a ‘contracted out’ workplace pension or similar arrangement, most or all of his additional pension may have been earned in that scheme rather than through the state scheme;  in this case, your inherited additional pension would mainly come from a widow’s pension from the company scheme, rather than via the state pension system.

You can read more about the state pension rules for widows here

Don’t forget to sign our petition to get the DWP to contact all those who are missing out on their correct state pension. You can sign it here.

Information on this webpage does not constitute financial advice or other professional advice, nor a recommendation of a particular course of action.

Lane Clark and Peacock LLP, its officers or employees do not accept any responsibility or liability for any loss, damage or inconvenience caused by action taken (or a decision not to take action) as a result of information provided by this.