How the state pension works

The state pension is a pension you’ll receive from the government once you reach the state pension age, provided you qualify. Having other pensions, like a personal or workplace pension, doesn’t affect your state pension, but you should be aware that entitlements to other benefits may be affected as a result of additional money earned from these pensions.

The state pension changed in April 2016 – how it works depends on when you reach your state pension age:

  • If you reached, or will reach, state pension age on or after 6th April 2016, you should be able to claim the new state pension. To qualify, you usually need to have at least ten years’ worth of national insurance contributions or credits. The amount you’ll get will depend on your national insurance record. To receive the maximum amount you’ll need 35 years of full contributions. It’s important to know that the qualifying years don’t have to be sequential. Find out more about the new state pension.
  • If you reached state pension age before 6th April 2016, the ‘old’ state pension rules still apply. The old state pension is primarily made up of the basic state pension and the additional state pension. To receive the full basic state pension, you must have paid national insurance contributions or credits for 30 years. Find out more about the old state pension.


How many years do you have to work to get state pension?

The state pension is dependent on your national insurance record, which you build up as you work. To be able to claim the state pension, you need at least ten years of national insurance contributions or credits.

This means that for a minimum of ten years, you either:



State pension age

The state pension age is the government’s official retirement age. It’s the youngest age at which you can start claiming your state pension. It’s worked out using your gender and when you were born. Your state pension age isn’t necessarily the same age at which you can start to take your personal or workplace pensions.

You can use the government’s online tool to find out your state pension age.



State pension amount

The full new state pension amount is adjusted each year for inflation. For the 2019/20 year, the maximum state pension is £168.60 a week. The amount of state pension you’ll get will depend on your national insurance record – you’ll need 35 years of contributions or credits to receive the full amount.

You could also get more per week if you defer taking your state pension. You don’t have to start claiming it when you reach state pension age, and so the longer you wait, the more you’ll then get per week. According to gov.uk, your state pension increases by 1% for every nine weeks you delay claiming it.

You could potentially get more than the maximum amount if you’re a woman born before 6th April 1953 or a man born before 6th April 1951 and you have a certain amount of additional state pension. Find out more from The Pension Advisory Service.



How do I find out if I will get a full state pension?

You can use the government’s online service to find out how much state pension you could claim, and whether you’re on track to get the full state pension.

This service should tell you how much you could get, when you can get it, and how you could increase it.

The amount you could get is also known as your state pension forecast. Check your state pension online.



How is the state pension paid?

The state pension – ‘old’ or new – is usually paid into a UK bank account or building society of your choice. The day on which it is paid depends on your national insurance number. It’s usually paid every four weeks, in arrears.