To avoid missing out, potentially affected women should call the DWP to see if they have been underpaid their state pension.

More women should ask the Department for Work and Pensions to check their state pensions, according to former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb.

Rumours abound ahead of the expected Autumn Budget that the government may need to loosen the pension triple lock to help recover stretched public finances following the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, research from a leading law firm has highlighted how relying on the intricacies of the state pension system could mean many are losing out.

Under the previous system, married women who reached state pension age before 6 April 2016 were able to claim a basic state pension of 60% of the full rate based on their husbands’ contribution record, if this was larger than the pension they could get based on their own contributions.

This uplift in the state pension should have been given automatically since 17 March 2008, but before then a married woman had to make a ‘second claim’ when her husband reached age 65 – and many women did not make this claim.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is checking its records, but the chances are that many women will miss out and should call the department to see if they have been underpaid.

Who is affected by the state pension shortfall?

The main groups of people affected, according to the research, are:

  • Married women whose husbands turned 65 before 17 March 2008 and have never claimed the 60% uplift.
  • Widows with pensions that weren’t increased after their husbands’ deaths.
  • Widows who think they may have been underpaid when their deceased husband was still alive, even if their pension is now correct.
  • Women in their 80s receiving a basic pension of less than £80.45 per week, if they satisfied the basic residence test at age 80.
  • Widowers and heirs of women who have now died but were underpaid state pension while alive.
  • Divorced women who might not be benefiting from their ex-husbands’ contributions.

Some married women who did not realise they needed to make a claim for the uplift pre-March 2008 are planning to make a complaint of maladministration to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. They will say that the DWP failed to make sure that they knew about the need to make the second state pension claim when their husband turned 65. Currently the payments for women in that category can only be backdated 12 months rather than the 12 years or more of pension uplift that has been missed.


If you think you or someone in your family may be affected, please get in touch.