• 2022 estimates highlight extent of underpayment
  • Amid the spiralling cost of living, Standard Life offer a guide to help you make sure you’re being paid everything you should be

Jenny Holt, Managing Director, customer savings & investments at Standard Life, said: "Last year, the National Audit Office estimated that as many as 134,000 pensioners, mostly women, may not have received the full amount of State Pension they're entitled to, being owed an average of £8,900. This amounts to total underpayments of over £1 billion. Estimates this year are even higher, with around 700,000 potential cases needing to be reviewed by the government and potentially as many as 237,000 people affected –meaning almost 2% of everyone receiving a state pension could be eligible for a top-up payment1.

"These cases arise due to a variety of factors, including computer errors, information being incorrectly inputted in people's records and the complexity of the State Pension system and its design, which originated not long after the Second World War. The people most likely to have been affected by these underpayments are those who reached State Pension age before April 2016, particularly if they didn't have a full National Insurance record or full State Pension entitlement. If you fall into this category then there are steps you can take to find out how much you might be owed and make a claim.

"Even if you're not affected directly by this issue, it's still important to take the time to understand the State Pension, know what you're entitled to, and whether it is being paid to you correctly. Having this knowledge will help you spot any potential errors and help ensure you're receiving the money you're due- with inflation currently above 10%, this has never been more crucial."

1 DWP benefits statistics: February 2022 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Standard Life guide on State Pension underpayments

Who can claim? There are certain groups of people among those who reached the State Pension age before April 2016 who are more likely to be affected by underpayment than others:

  1. Married people, or those with a civil partner, whose spouse or partner turned 65 before the 17th March 2008 and whose State Pension is less than 60% of their partner's basic State Pension. They could now be owed a boost, including some backdated payments, for which they will need to make a claim.
  2. People who got divorced or dissolved a civil partnership after they had retired and whose pension does not take into account their former partner's National Insurance contributions. Potentially, these people could be owed a top-up on their pension, for which they would need to make a claim.
  3. People who are married or in a civil partnership and turned 65 before 17th March 2008 and are not receiving anything in basic State Pension but do receive a small amount from additional State Pension. Some people who fall into this group have been receiving as little as £1 a week and are eligible to claim 60% of the basic State Pension, backdated to when their spouse reached 65. They could potentially claim large amounts, and so people who think that they or their loved one are in this category should strongly consider making a claim.
  4. People who are 80 years old or over and are not currently receiving at least £85 a week from their State Pension. Pensioners in this group don't need a full National Insurance contributions record, but they do have to satisfy a basic residency test. You should have been notified automatically by the DWP if you are in this group, but you may also want to check yourself.
  5. Widowed people whose State Pension did not rise when their spouse passed away. People in this situation may be entitled to an increase to the full State Pension, plus some of their additional State Pension, depending on their late spouse's National Insurance Record. The DWP should automatically identify individuals in this group, but it is definitely worth double checking if you think it may apply to you.
  6. People who currently receive the correct level of pension but may have been underpaid (if they were getting less than 60% of the full basic pension) while their spouse was alive. Some widows whose spouses reached pension age after 17th March 2008 are in this position.
  7. The families of people whose State Pension was underpaid during their lifetime. Although some people in this category will be notified automatically, many may not be, because records for them no longer exist, and they have fallen through cracks in the system.


While it is possible that men may be eligible for underpaid State Pension top-ups, they are in practice less likely to be. Since they are more likely than women to have a full National Insurance record and less likely to rely on a spouse or partner for their State Pension entitlement, men are less likely to fall into one of these listed categories.

How to Make a Claim: If someone feels that they have not received the full amount that they are entitled to from their State Pension, they should contact the Pension Service. Have your National Insurance number to hand when making your claim, along with details of what you currently receive in State Pension (your annual statement), your spouse or civil partner's name, date of birth (and death, if applicable), their National Insurance number and how much your spouse receives or did receive in State Pension.

What if the person who was underpaid has died? If the person who was underpaid their State Pension has passed away, the best thing to do is go to the DWP's recently launched website that is dedicated to this issue, and explains who may be affected. The website has a useful link to request information.

How much unpaid State Pension could I be owed? The average amount owed in unpaid pensions was initially estimated at just under £9,000, however individual amounts paid out have varied widely. This is partly due to different types of claims having different backdating rules and also because some people may be able to claim in more than one category.

It's also important to be aware that some back payments may affect your tax situation or benefits entitlement.




Sarah Muir
07870 397537

James Merrick
Standard Life
07713 918949


About Standard Life

  • Standard Life is a brand that has been trusted to look after peoples' life savings for nearly 200 years
  • Today it proudly serves millions of customers who come to Standard Life directly, through advisers and through their employers' pension scheme.
  • Standard Life is part of Phoenix Group, the largest long-term savings and retirement business in the UK. We're proud to be building on nearly 200 years of Standard Life heritage together
  • Our products include a variety of Pensions, Bonds and Retirement options to suit people's needs, helping our customers to invest and save for their future. We're proud to offer a leading range of sustainable and responsible investment options.
  • We support our customers on their journey to and through retirement with comprehensive, easy-to-understand guidance so they can invest in the right way for their needs, and plan a future they feel confident about
  • The value of investments can go down as well as up and may be worth less than originally invested.

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