MARTIN Lewis has warned thousands of women on the "old" pensions system to check whether they're owed a £13,500 payout.
Up to 200,000 women of retirement age may have been underpaid their state pension after the system failed to automatically give them a pay rise.
Last week, the Government finally agreed to repay the estimated £2.7billion worth of arrears after a campaign by This is Money and former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb.
It means on average, women pensioners could be owed a payout of £13,500, although the amount will vary.
Mr Lewis explained to viewers of last night's The Martin Lewis Money Showthat the error, which stretches back 30 years, affects married women and widows aged 67 and older.
Women who retired on small state pensions before April 2016 were supposed to see pension payments go up when their husbands reached retirement age.
How to work out if you’re affected?
HERE we look at how you can work out if you’ve been affected and how to get paid.
- This online tool was launched last year by former pensions minister Steve Webb on behalf of actuarial firm LCP, after he first uncovered cases of women being paid the wrong state pension via his This Is Money column.
- All you have to do is answer a series of questions and the tool will let you know if you have been underpaid.
- To get paid, unfortunately all you can do is sit tight.
- The Department for Work and Pensions is working to go through each payment which will take years.
- You should eventually get a letter from the DWP about your payment but it is not clear how long this will take.
- For more information you can call the Pension Service.
Payments should have risen by 60% of their husband’s basic state pension, which was the amount that women with low National Insurance payments got under the old pension system.
Mr Lewis said: "Under the terms, you'll receive an automatic rebate if your husband was 65 or older on March 17, 2008 and you received no state pension uplift when they passed away.
"However, some people won't receive automatic payments.
"You will need to claim yourself if you husband turned 65 before March 2008 and you're being paid less than 60% of the basic state pension.
"You'll also need to make a claim if you got divorced after retirement and your pension is less than your former husband's one."
But there is concern up to 80,000 married women are set to miss out due to a rule change in 2008 that saw payments run automatic.
Before then, women had to apply to get the full sum they were owed, meaning the onus fell on them.
The law currently means they can't backdate a claim further than 12 months, leaving them out of pocket.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has promised to correct the historical underpayments and will contact those who are affected.
How did the pension error happen?
The underpayment error happened when an old pension scheme policy, which meant women’s pensions were linked to their husband’s, was changed in 2016.
Currently, we have a system where there's an old state pension, which is referred to as the basic state pension, and the new state pension.
The old state pension was for those who reached retirement age before April 6, 2016, while the new state pension is for those who reach retirement age after this date – although there is some crossover for people who've accrued National Insurance contributions under both systems.
It was decided that married women could pay a reduced rate of NI contributions, known as the “married woman’s stamp”.
This meant they were not paying towards their own state pension, but when their husband retired they could get an uplift to 60% of his pension so long as he had a full record of contributions.
Married women who had not paid the stamp but had missed out on making contributions due to staying at home with the kids also qualified for the boost to 60%.
The policy was deemed unfair and was changed in 2016 so women’s pensions were no longer linked to their husband's.
But campaigner Sir Steve Webb discovered that women who have an old state pension and retired before 2016, have not been getting the increase to 60% — and are due payouts.
The current Pensions Minister Guy Opperman recently explained that it occurred because junior civil servants failed to manually update women's individual records during past decades.
He said that its IT systems are meant to flag when an individual’s State Pension amount should be increased.
DWP staff would then respond by changing the pension amount manually but in some cases, this did not happen.
Top tips to boost your pension pot
DON’T know where to start? Here are some tips from financial provider Aviva on how to get going.
- Understand where you start: Before you consider your plans for tomorrow, you'll need to understand where you stand today. Look into your current pension savings and research when you’ll be eligible for the state pension, and how much support you’ll receive.
- Take advantage of your workplace pension: All employers are legally required to provide a workplace pension. If you save, your employer will usually have to contribute too.
- Take advantage of online planning tools: Financial providers Aviva and Royal London have tools that give you an idea of what your retirement income will be based on how much you're saving.
- Find out if your workplace offers advice: Many employers offer sessions with financial advisers to help you plan for your future retirement.
Women who became eligible for the 60% boost between 2008 and 2016, should have had all their losses repaid because the Government will haveupped their pensions automatically.
But those whose husbands retired before April 2008 had to apply for the extra cash themselves.
Women in this position who missed out could only get a year of back-dated payments and Sir Steve called on the Government to launch a review into the policy.
He told The Sun: “It is scandalous that so many women have been underpaid for so long. It is good that the government is finally addressing the issue but it needs to do so much more quickly.
"Some of those who were underpaid have already died and more will do so before the government gets to the end of this process.
"It is also shocking that the government plans to stop paying interest on these back payments. It is not the fault of these women that they have been underpaid and they should not lose out as a result”.
How do I get paid?
If you use the LCP calculator and think you're eligible for a top-up in either scenario, then the DWP should pick up the error in their own records too.
The DWP started working to fix the problem on January, 11 2021.
A department spokesperson previously told The Sun that a specialist team of around 150 people has been set up to deal with the corrections.
If you are owed money, you will have to sit tight and wait for the DWP to send you a letter confirming your payment.
The spokesperson said the team is manually working through each case as quickly as they can.
Although they said they could not give a specific time frame of when people should receive their money, it could take years to get through the cases.
They told The Sun: “The action we are taking now will correct the historical underpayments that have been made by successive governments.
“Anyone impacted will be contacted by us to ensure they receive all that they are owed.”
For more information, you can call the Pension Service.
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