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July 6, 2023

UK State Pension Guide: New vs Old Pension + 2024 Rates

The full new State Pension in the UK is £221.20 in 2024. Find out its eligibility, rates, and how it differs from the old State Pension.

Aine Kavanagh

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Aine Kavanagh

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The UK State Pension is a regular payment from the UK government to people who reach the State Pension age (66 years in 2024) and meet other criteria.

How much State Pension do you get?

That depends on whether you’re eligible for the new or the old State Pension.

Let’s explore the finer nuances of the UK State Pension, starting with those two pension systems. 

New State Pension vs Old State Pension in the UK (+ Eligibility)

You could be eligible for pension under the new or old rule based on when you reach the State Pension age. 

The State Pension age is the minimum age (66 years as of 2024) at which you can claim the State Pension in the UK. It could differ from when your workplace or personal pension plan kicks in. 

Let’s check out the new UK State Pension and the old one in detail:

1. What is the New State Pension in the UK?

People who reach the State Pension age on or after 6th April 2016 get paid under the new State Pension rules. 

Eligibility for the New State Pension

It depends on your gender, birth year, and your National Insurance records.

A. If You’re a Woman
  • You must be born after 6th April 1953

  • You must have at least 10 qualifying years for a partial rate new State Pension and 35 qualifying years for a full new State Pension (these can be before or after April 2016)

B. If You’re a Man
  • You must be born after 6th April 1951

  • You must have at least 10 qualifying years for a partial rate new State Pension and 35 qualifying years for a full new State Pension (these can be before or after April 2016)

C. If You’re a Transgender Person
  • If you reach the State Pension age after 4th April 2005 AND have a Gender Recognition Certificate:

    • You must have the required qualifying years as per your acquired gender (see conditions A and B we covered above) to claim the State Pension.

  • You may be eligible for backdated State Pension if:

    • You were born between 31 October 1953 and 6 November 1953

    • You had lived in your acquired gender for at least two years by 31 October 2018

    • You have had gender reassignment surgery

2. What is the Old State Pension in the UK?

The old State Pension applies to people who reached the UK State Pension age before the 6th of April 2016.

Under the old rules, the pension comprises of: 

  • Basic State Pension: The basic pension entitlement built through National Insurance (NI) contributions.

  • Additional State Pension: The extra amount accrued through various government schemes.

These are linked to the qualifying years you achieve during your employment years.

What’s a Qualifying Year?

A National Insurance qualifying year is a tax year (April to April) during which you did one OR more of the following:

  • Made Class 1 NI contributions (payable at 8% for weekly earnings between £242.01 to £967 in 2024-25) through sufficient employment earnings. For weekly income between £123 to £242,  you’ll be treated as making NI contributions at a 0% rate.

  • Made Class 2 contributions if you’re currently (or previously) self-employed — payable at £3.45 per week for profits below £6725 in the tax year 2024-25. From April 2024, self-employed individuals with profits between £6725 and £12,570 or exceeding £12,570 will no longer need to pay Class 2 NI Contributions but can continue to receive benefits like the State Pension.

  • Earned enough National Insurance Credits to fill gaps in the National Insurance record. You may acquire these credits on certain qualifying benefits like Jobseeker’s Allowance, Carers Allowance, sick pay, and maternity/paternity pay.

  • Made voluntary National Insurance contributions to plug gaps in your National Insurance record. In 2024-25, the voluntary contribution rate is £17.45 weekly.

Eligibility for the Basic State Pension

It depends on your birth year, gender, and NI contributions.

A. If You’re a Woman 
  • You must be born before 6th April 1953

  • Minimum NI contributions (for partial Pension amount)

    • Born before 6th April 1950: At least 10 qualifying years

    • Born between 5th April 1950 and 6th April 1953: At least one qualifying year

  • NI Contributions for the full basic State Pension

    • Born before 6th April 1950: 39 qualifying years

    • Born between 5th April 1950 and 6th April 1953: 30 qualifying years

B. If You’re a Man
  • You must be born before 6th April 1951

  • Minimum NI contributions (for partial Pension amount):

    • Born before 6th April 1945: At least 11 qualifying years

    • Born between 5th April 1945 and 6th April 1951: At least one qualifying year

  • NI Contributions for the full basic State Pension:

    • Born before 6th April 1945: 44 qualifying years

    • Born between 5th April 1945 and 6th April 1951: 30 qualifying years

C. If You’re a Transgender Person

Your eligibility for the State Pension depends on whether you reached the State Pension age before or after the Gender Recognition Act 2004 came into effect.

If you were born between 24th December 1919 and 3rd April 1945 AND have proof of a gender reassignment surgery done before 4th April 2005, you could claim equal treatment rights. 

If you satisfy equal treatment conditions, you can request an ‘expression of interest’ form from the Pension Service for a backdated State Pension.

But wait.

If you’re receiving the basic State Pension and have reached the State Pension age before April 6, 2016, you will also be eligible for the Additional State Pension. 

Let’s understand this in more detail.

Additional State Pension in the UK

The Additional State Pension is an extra amount you could get on top of your basic State Pension.

You’re eligible for the Additional State Pension if:

  • You do not benefit from a contracted-out pension scheme, AND

  • You’ve built the entitlement to an additional pension through these four government schemes that were active at different periods:

    • Graduated Retirement Benefit (1961-1975)

    • State Earnings Related Pension Scheme, or SERPS (1978 to 2002)

    • State Second Pension, or S2P (2002 to 2016)

    • State Pension top up (2015-2017)

Remember: You won’t be eligible for the Additional State Pension if you reach the State Pension age on or after April 6, 2016. Instead, you’ll get the new State Pension.

Contracting-out was a facility (it ended on 6 April 2016) that allowed people to opt out of the Additional State Pension and make lower National Insurance contributions in the UK. They could instead use the saved amount towards a workplace, personal, or stakeholder pension scheme.

Further Reading

How Much Is the State Pension in the UK?

In April 2024:

  • The weekly rate of the full new State Pension is £221.20 per week.

  • The weekly rate of the full basic State Pension is £169.50 per week.

This increase is due to the UK's triple-lock State Pension guarantee, which saw the State Pension rise by 8.5%, from £10,600.20 per year in December 2023 to £11,501.22 in April 2024.

Let’s understand the math behind the new and old State Pension systems.

1. New State Pension Pay Rates

From April 6, 2024, the full new State Pension in the UK is available at a rate of £221.20 per week (for 35 qualifying years of NI contributions).

However, after April 6 2024, the new State Pension payment will be made at a maximum weekly rate of  £221.20 per week.

If you have between 10 to 34 years of contributions, you’ll get a fraction of the full amount proportional to the number of qualifying years (similar to the basic State Pension).

Contributions above 35 years won’t add to the maximum new State Pension amount.

But look:

The new State Pension calculation might not be as straightforward if you’ve accrued NI contributions or credits from the pre-2016 system.

How Is Your New State Pension Amount Worked Out?

The first step is to arrive at the Starting Amount for your new State Pension, which is done by considering your pre-2016 contributions. The Starting Amount is the higher of:

  • The amount of State Pension you’d receive under the old rule (Basic pension + Additional State Pensions)

  • The sum you would receive had the New pension rule been in place when you began working.

This Starting Amount will affect your new State Pension amount as follows:

  • If your Starting Amount is more than the full amount of the new State Pension (£221.20 in 2024), you’ll get the additional amount (known as the ‘Protected Amount’) on top of the full amount when you start getting the new State Pension.

  • If your Starting Amount is lower than the full amount of the new State Pension, you could build up your State Pension amount by accruing NI contributions and NI credits from 6 April 2016 till you reach the full new State Pension amount or the State Pension age (whichever happens first).

The government increases the State Pension entitlement annually to ensure it doesn’t lose its value due to inflation. It considers the highest of the three separate measures of inflation (‘triple lock’) — average earnings (in Great Britain), cost of living (Consumer Price Index), and flat 2.5% rise — to set the increase.

2. Old State Pension Pay Rates

Under the old rule, you can get the maximum basic State Pension of £169.50 per week in 2024 (for 30 qualifying years).

If you have less than 30 years of contributions, you’ll get a fraction of the full amount based on the number of years of NI contributions.

For example:

In 2024, if you have 12 qualifying years at the time of claim, you’re entitled to £67.8 per week — 12/30th of the full amount (£169.50).

Unless you benefit from a contracted-out scheme, your National Insurance contribution also gives you rights to the Additional State Pension. 

However, this extra State Pension amount isn’t fixed and depends on your qualifying years, earnings, and whether you’ve topped up your pension with schemes like State Second Pension.

Can You Increase Your UK State Pension Amount?

Pensioners can get an amount higher than the full State Pension under three scenarios:

  • If you built up the Additional State Pension (applicable under the old rule).

  • If you ‘defer’ claiming your State Pension when it's due. You’ll get a higher weekly pension or a lump sum amount when you claim it. If you’re already claiming the State Pension, you can still choose to defer it (only allowed once).

  • If you inherit the pension of your spouse or civil partner. 

What’s more?

If your pension amount is less than the full rate due to gaps in your National Insurance record, you can make voluntary contributions or claim NI credits to build up the amount.

Still confused about your pension amount?

Use the State Pension Forecast online service at www.gov.uk/check-state-pension or contact the government’s Future Pension Centre at:

  • Telephone (within the UK): 0800 731 0175

  • Telephone (from outside the UK): +44 (0)191 218 3600

Remember: You won't start getting the State Pension automatically once you reach the State Pension age. You have to apply for it.

When Can You Apply For the New State Pension in the UK?

You can apply for the State Pension four months before reaching the State Pension age.

However, the regular payment will start only when you reach the State Pension age. 

You’ll typically receive an invitation letter from the Pension Service at least two months before you reach the State Pension age. It’ll contain an invitation code (needed when applying for the State Pension online) and other details about the claim process.

What if you apply after reaching the State Pension age?

You can request backdating of your State Pension for a maximum period of up to 12 months. But you’ll not get any interest on the backdated lump sum pension amount.

If you backdate your pension claim for more than 12 months after you reach the legal pension age, you’ll be considered to have ‘deferred’ your pension (which could affect your pay rates).

How Do You Apply for the UK State Pension?

Here are the different ways you can apply for the UK State Pension:

  • Apply online: Visit www.gov.uk/get-state-pension and ​​complete the necessary application process using the invitation code you received.

  • Via Phone: You can call the UK Pension Service to claim your State Pension or request a physical pension application form on:

  • Telephone: 0800 731 7898 (open Monday to Friday, 8 am to 6 pm except for public holidays)

  • Textphone: 0800 731 7339

  • Relay UK (for people with hearing or speech difficulties): 18001 then 0800 731 7898

  • Apply by post: Fill out the pension application form and send it to:
    Pension Service 8
    Post Handling Site B
    WV98 1AF

Contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre to get the application form if you're applying from Northern Ireland.

Do you live abroad? 

Contact the International Pension Centre or fill out the international claim form at www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-claiming-a-state-pension-if-you-retire-abroad.

In the application form, you’ll need to provide your personal details, such as:

  • Your National Insurance number

  • The date of your most recent marriage, civil partnership, or divorce

  • Dates of any time spent living or working abroad

  • Your society building or bank details

  • The invitation code from the letter you received from the Pension Service

How Is the UK State Pension Paid?

Your State Pension (plus any Additional State Pension) is paid every four weeks directly to either:

  • Your bank account or building society account

  • A Post Office or National Savings account that accepts Direct Debit payment.

The day your pension is paid depends on your National Insurance number.

What Are Some Alternatives to the State Pension UK?

If you’re not eligible for the State Pension, you can still claim other social protection benefits for older people.

Some alternatives to the State Pension in the UK are:

  • Pension Credit: Pension Credit is a top-up to the State Pension to support low-income individuals who are eligible.  

  • Other social benefits: Other helpful benefits for senior citizens in the UK include:

  • Older Person Bus Pass: Free bus travel when you reach the State Pension age.

  • Housing Benefit: A social protection payment that covers housing rent for low-income individuals over the State Pension age.

  • Winter fuel payment: An annual tax-free payment made to help individuals cover their heating costs in winter.

  • Workplace or personal pension: These are private pension plans you can set up yourself or through your employer. For example, a defined contribution pension plan is the UK's most common employer-sponsored pension plan.

  • Private retirement benefits package: Some employers in the UK provide private retirement benefits plans to boost employees’ retirement income as part of their employee benefit initiatives. 

7 FAQs Around the UK State Pension

We’ll tackle some common questions about the State Pension in the United Kingdom:

1. When Does the State Pension Age Increase?

The current State Pension age of 66 years (for both genders) is set to rise to 67 by 2028 and then to 68 by 2039. 

The UK Pensions Act 2014 legislates periodic review of the State Pension Age, considering several factors like changes in life expectancy.

Note: As mentioned earlier, transgender people are eligible for State Pension as per their acquired gender under the new Pension rule.

2. Can You Claim the State Pension and Keep Working?

You can keep working past the retirement age and claim the UK State Pension without age restrictions. That’s because the retirement age limit of 65 no longer applies.

The bad news?

  • It may affect your entitlement to other benefits like Pension Credit, Housing Benefit, and Council Tax Reduction. 

  • The State Pension is taxable, and earning a regular income alongside it may put you in a higher income tax band.

3. Can You Claim the State Pension If You’ve Never Worked?

To qualify for the full new State Pension, you need a minimum of 35 years of National Insurance contributions acquired through employment, self-employment, or voluntary contributions.

However, if you’ve never worked or have never been employed, there are specific situations where you may still be eligible for certain State Pension benefits. 

These situations include claiming the State Pension as a:

  • Spouse or civil partner: If you're married or in a civil partnership with someone making National Insurance contributions, you may claim a portion of your partner's State Pension.

  • Carer: If you've been a caregiver for a specific period, you can claim credits towards National Insurance, which can help you to qualify for the State Pension. 

  • Parent: If you took time off work to care for a child, you may be eligible for National Insurance credits towards your State Pension. 

  • Pension credit: If you have a low income, you may qualify for pension credit, a means-tested benefit offering a top-up to your State Pension.

4. Can You Delay Receiving the State Pension?

Pensioners can defer receiving the State Pension for a higher weekly payment OR a one-off lump sum. 

The amount of increase and the minimum time limit for deferring varies for old and new pension systems.

  • Under the new pension rule, you’ll need to defer the pension for at least nine weeks — for which you’ll get a 1% increase (amounting to a 5.8% gain for one year of deferral). So if you get the full new pension amount in 2024 (£221.20 per week), you’ll receive an extra State Pension of £12.82 per week if you defer for a year.

  • Similarly, under the 2024 rates, if you get the full new pension amount of £221.20 per week, you’ll receive an additional £12.82 per week if you defer for a year. 

  • Under the old rule, the State Pension increases by 1% for a minimum of 5 weeks of deferral — or 10.4% yearly.

5. Would You Get State Pension Benefits If You’re Retiring Abroad?

You can claim the State Pension abroad if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions to qualify. 

But you’ll get the yearly pension increases only if you live in a country that is part of the European Economic Area (EEA) or have a social security agreement with the UK, like Iceland and Canada.

If you’ve previously worked (or have retired) in another country, you may claim that country’s State Pension in addition to the UK State Pension.

6. Can You Inherit the State Pension From Your Spouse Or Civil Partner?

You may be able to inherit some of your deceased partner's State Pension or protected payment. The amount will depend on their National Insurance contribution and the starting date of your marriage or partnership. 

7. What Other Payments Might Increase Alongside the State Pension in 2024?

In April, benefits connected to inflation and Tax Credits will undergo an increase to align with the September 2023 Consumer Prices Index (CPI) figure of 6.7%, as confirmed by the Office for National Statistics.

The benefits that typically rise with inflation include:

  • Attendance Allowance

  • Employment and Support Allowance

  • Housing Benefit

  • Income Support

  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit

  • Child benefit

  • Jobseeker's Allowance

  • Maternity Allowance

  • Pension Credit

  • Personal Independence Payment

  • Statutory Maternity/Paternity/Adoption/Shared parental pay

  • Statutory Sick Pay

  • Income tax Credits

  • Universal Credit

Supplement Your Employees’ State Pension With a Workplace Pension

In a 2023 study by the King’s College, London, participants found the UK State Pension inadequate for a comfortable retirement. 

They’ll have to supplement it with other income, like a workplace pension. 

According to UK law, all employers must provide a workplace pension scheme to boost their employees' retirement income by automatically enrolling eligible employees. 

Looking to set up a workplace pension scheme for your UK team? 

Use Kota — a powerful digital pension app built for modern teams. 

It lets you:

  • Set up and manage compliant UK pension offerings remotely.

  • Offer your team integrated pension plans from trusted provider Smart Pension.

  • Contribute to your employee's pension pot by choosing your pension contribution rate, ranging from a minimum of 3% to a maximum of 8%.

  • Get rid of additional financial and administrative layers to save costs.

Sign up with Kota to get your workplace pension plan rolling in minutes!

Aine Kavanagh

Article written by

Aine Kavanagh

👋🏻 Hi I'm Aine, Head of Customer Success at Kota. Whether you're a Kota customer, a Kota user, or you're just browsing, I hope to help educate and empower those who want to know more about owning their own benefits, and building financial autonomy 📚

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