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September 12, 2023

UK State Pension Triple Lock: How it Works + 2024 Changes

Learn how the triple lock protects the UK State Pension from inflation. Also, explore the concerns regarding the triple lock pension and the future outlook.

Aine Kavanagh

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Aine Kavanagh

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The triple lock is a safeguard the UK government introduced to ensure the State Pension remains financially viable for pensioners.

It protects the value of the State Pension from decreasing over time to maintain the purchasing power of pensioners.

Let’s explore the intricacies of the triple lock pension system and find out how it affects your State Pension earnings. We’ll also discuss the uncertainty around its future.

What Is the Triple Lock Pension in the UK? 

The triple lock is a government guarantee that the UK State Pension payments won't erode with rising inflation. It applies to everyone receiving the basic State Pension (pre-April 2016) and the new State Pension (post-April 2016).

The triple lock guarantee was introduced in 2011-12 by the coalition government led by then-Prime Minister David Cameron. 

What’s the ‘triple’?

The 'triple' stands for the three safety locks to which the UK government ties the annual State Pension increases — which we’ll discuss next.

How Does the Triple Lock on the UK State Pension Work?

Each year, the UK government increases the State Pension by the highest of the following three components:

  • The rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, or CPI (September reading in the previous year)

  • The average increase in earnings (measured by the Office of National Statistics between May and July of the previous year)

  • A baseline rise of 2.5%

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) — a key indicator of inflation — tracks changes in the average price of a basket of household goods and services over time. It’s calculated by comparing this basket’s cost in the base year with its current cost.

For example:

Suppose the average earnings increase by 2% in a given year, but inflation rises faster, say 3%.

In the next year, the State Pension would increase by 3% to keep pace with inflation, not just by 2% to match earnings growth.

If the CPI inflation and average earnings increase at a rate lower than 2.5%, the State Pension would still rise by the baseline rate of 2.5%.

The 2024 Triple Lock Example

In his 2023 Autumn Statement, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, announced an 8.5% increase in State pension rates for 2024. So, for the year 2024-25:

  • The standard rate basic State Pension rose from £156.20 to £169.50 per week.

  • The full New State Pension rate grew from £203.85 to £221.20 per week.

But why an 8.5% increase?

According to the United Kingdom Treasury data, the average earnings growth between May and July 2023 was 8.5% — the factor used for the State Pension increase this year.

How Does State Pension Triple Lock Scheme Benefits Pensioners

Here are three significant advantages of the triple lock pension system for an older person receiving the State Pension:

1. Safeguarding Retirement Income from Inflation

The triple lock system ensures that pensioners’ income is steady and in line with the rising cost of living.

For instance, if price inflation hits 3%, the State Pension rises by 3%, protecting retirees from reduced spending power.

Consider the 2023 State Pension increase as an example: 

The inflation in the UK rose to 10.1% in September 2022, but pensioners were cushioned by the triple lock, receiving a 2023 State Pension increase consistent with inflation rates.

2. Guaranteed Minimum Increase

The triple lock guarantees pensioners a minimum annual increase of 2.5% on their State Pension.

In a year when price inflation and wage growth are low (below 2.5%), pensioners will still see an increase in their pension payments.

3. Wage-Adjusted Pension Growth

The State Pension triple lock ensures that pensioners are not left behind as the nation’s earnings rise.

For instance, wage growth was 3.9% in 2019, and under the triple lock, the 2020 State Pension increased accordingly — from £168.60 to £175.20 per week.

With all its benefits, the State Pension triple lock system has had moments of uncertainty.

The UK government temporarily halted the triple lock in 2022 due to COVID-19's economic impact. The pandemic led to a wage surge, risking a significant State Pension increase. 

Concerns Against UK State Pension Triple Lock and Future Outlook

Supporters of the UK triple lock pension argue that it’ll help ensure better retirement incomes for current and future pensioners, especially low-wage earners heavily relying on the UK State Pension.

However, since its inception, financial experts have raised concerns about the feasibility of the triple lock system.

Those against it provide the following reasons:

  • Ratchet Effect Highlighted by OBR:

    • The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) identifies a "ratchet effect" with the triple lock pension and its impact on the UK’s public finances. This occurs when government expenditure rises due to increased State Pension rates. 

    • For example, suppose the government raises State Pension rates due to high inflation. This may lead to a continuous upward trend in pension spending since pensions aren’t usually adjusted downwards.

  • Concerns About Fairness: Some people believe it's unfair for younger people to contribute significantly to the incomes of older individuals through the triple lock. It may give older individuals higher living standards than what the younger generations will experience upon retirement.

  • Doubts About Long-Term Sustainability: There are concerns about the long-term sustainability of the triple lock pension, primarily due to recent economic fluctuations and increasing government spending on the State Pension.

What’s more?

The 2023 State Pension rise increased the government’s pension expenditure by £11 billion.

Similarly, the 8.5% State Pension increase in 2024 means that the UK government’s total pension expenditure is expected to rise and hit £135 billion by 2025.

Financial experts also predict that by 2025, State Pension spending could cost the UK more than its combined spending on education, policing, and defence.

A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies also noted that the triple lock complicates the government’s financial planning.

As a result, Former PM Theresa May suggested replacing the triple lock with a 'double lock' in 2017. This would have tied the State Pension increases solely to the higher of inflation or average earnings growth. However, the idea lacked support then and could not be implemented.

So, what does the future hold for the triple lock system?

The Conservative Party proposed the "triple lock plus" or “quadruple lock” system in May 2024 as an alternative to the current system. It’s a campaign promise for the upcoming July 2024 general elections that they plan to implement if re-elected.

What is Triple Lock Plus?

Under this proposal, the existing 'triple lock' will remain, which raises the State Pension annually by the highest of inflation, wage growth, or 2.5%. 

Additionally, the tax-free personal allowance for pensioners will also increase by the highest of inflation, earnings, or 2.5%.

What does it mean for pensioners?

The personal allowance is the amount of tax-free income a person can earn in the UK. 

So, raising the personal allowance for pensioners by 2.5% means they can keep more of their total retirement income tax-free, which is an additional financial relief.

Here’s an example:

Let's say Sarah, a pensioner, receives the full new State Pension of £221.20 per week, which amounts to £11,502.40 per year.

Under the current system (2024-25), Sarah's personal allowance is £12,570 per year. This means she pays no income tax on her state pension, but any additional income above £12,570 would be taxable.

With the triple lock plus policy, Sarah's personal allowance would increase annually by the highest of inflation, earnings growth, or 2.5%.

If inflation is 3% and earnings growth is 2.5% in a given year, Sarah’s personal allowance would rise by 3% to £12,947.10.

This would ensure her state pension remains tax-free, even if the full new state pension increases to £12,500 per year due to the regular triple lock.

How does the triple lock plus system affect the UK government?

The triple lock plus is projected to cost around £2.4 billion annually by 2029-30, funded by other tax adjustments.

So, is the current UK pension system reliable with all these concerns and uncertainty around the triple lock?

Let’s discuss that next.

How Does the UK Pension System Compare to Other European Pensions?

Mercer CFA’s (Chartered Financial Institute) global pension index 2023 ranked the UK's pension system at the 10th position, with countries like the Netherlands, Iceland, and Denmark taking the top 3 spots.

A similar study by Penfold discovered that approximately 15.5% of pensioners in the UK live in poverty, while in countries offering more robust pension plans, only 3% of pensioners experience financial challenges.

The UK government introduced the triple lock State Pension guarantee to overcome these challenges and enhance the pension system's sustainability.

This was a pivotal step since the UK's pension system isn’t as strong as in countries like the Netherlands, Iceland, and Denmark. 


All three countries have large industry funds where workers and employers contribute a set amount towards the pension pot. They also offer mandatory or semi-mandatory pension schemes, which ensures citizens benefit from a more extensive and organised pension system, resulting in substantial benefits and improved living standards.

If the UK’s triple lock State Pension is removed, it might not significantly impact current pensioners, especially if it’s replaced with a 'double lock’.

However, the main issue is that although the State Pension would continue to increase with inflation, it won’t exceed the inflation rates.

The bottom line?

Considering the uncertainties surrounding the government's triple lock guarantee, you must find other ways to make your retirement income inflation-proof.

4 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Income From Inflation

The best way to safeguard your retirement income from inflation is to plan ahead and make additional contributions to your pension pot. Also, consider investing in securities that promise good risk-adjusted returns.

This approach also ensures you have a sizable pension pot if you’re planning an early retirement.

Here are five ways to do this:

Note: This information should not be treated as financial advice. Consult trusted financial advisors for accurate pension advice based on your circumstances.

1. Contribute More to Workplace or Private Pension Schemes

If you’re eligible for the UK auto-enrolment pension, your employer will typically enrol you in their workplace pension scheme.

To boost your workplace pension pot, you can:

  • Contribute more to your pension fund than the minimum auto-enrolment limit of 5%.

  • Make one-off lump sum payments into your pension fund.

  • Speak with your employer on ways to maximise your pensionable earnings.

If you’re an employer, you can contribute more to an employee’s pension fund than the required auto-enrolment minimum (3% of pensionable earnings).

But that could be challenging if you already spend excessive time and money managing your workplace pension scheme.

This is where Kota can help.

Set Up Cost-Effective UK Workplace Pension With Kota

Kota is a digital pension platform that lets you offer a workplace pension scheme to your UK team without the burden of brokerage and administrative costs.

We’ve partnered with Smart Pension, a trusted pension provider in the UK, to help employers set up and manage pensions compliantly from anywhere in the world.

With Kota, you can:

  • Offer employees more freedom to track pension savings through a digital app.

  • Contribute the required auto-enrolment minimum of 3% or even up to 8%.

  • Integrate existing human resources (HR) and payroll tools to reduce administrative work.

  • Assess and re-enrol employees with ease every three years.

  • Postpone auto-enrolments for up to three months compliantly. You can even automate the process to create a standard postponement period for your team.

So join Kota to start enrolling your team in minutes!

2. Invest in an Individual Savings Account (ISA) or Lifetime ISA

An individual savings account is a tax-efficient way to save and withdraw money. It allows you to save up to £20,000 per year in cash or investments.

Similarly, a Lifetime ISA (LISA) is a government-backed savings account designed to help you save for a first home or retirement.

The government adds a 25% bonus on your yearly contributions, up to £4,000 per year, making it a smart, inflation-beating option.

3. Delay Taking Your Retirement Income

You give your pension pot more time to grow when you delay taking your State Pension payments.

This approach increases your monthly pension payments and fortifies your income against the erosive effects of high inflation.

If you’ve reached State Pension age (66 years in 2024) and are on a low income, you could get additional support like Pension Credit and Housing Benefit in addition to the basic pension.

4. Use the Salary Sacrifice Scheme

A salary sacrifice scheme lets you reduce your take-home salary and instead put the amount into your pension fund (or other non-cash benefits).

It reduces your taxable income, so you’ll have to pay less income tax. This leaves you with more money to invest in your pension fund.

Secure Your Pension Income Above and Beyond the UK Triple Lock

The UK government’s triple lock policy protects your retirement income from inflation.

While the current government has committed to continue the policy, its future remains uncertain.

So, you must consider other avenues to boost your pension income.

If in doubt, seek professional financial advice to plan your post-retirement finances and protect them from economic uncertainties. Consult advisers who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK.

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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