Your entitlement to some state benefits (contributory benefits) depends on how much national insurance (NI) you’ve paid or been credited with. State Pension and bereavement benefits are examples of contributory state benefits.
There may be times when you’re not paying national insurance because you’re off work sick or are claiming state benefits for illness or disability. In these situations, you usually continue to get NI credits. These cover the contributions you were unable to pay and protect your entitlement to contributory state benefits.
However, sometimes you may have a gap in your NI record. For example, if:
- you’re not paying NI because you work but are earning less than £112 a week in 2015–16 (unless you’re also claiming benefits such as Working Tax Credit because your income is low – in that case, you’ll get NI credits)
- you no longer qualify for sickness and disability benefits but decide to take an extended, unpaid break from working
- you take early retirement and you’ve not yet reached State Pension age.
If you have a gap in your NI contributions, you could choose to pay voluntary contributions to plug the gap and protect your State Pension and bereavement benefits. But working out whether this is worth doing is complicated, because you can have quite large gaps without any loss of pension.
For advice on how to pay voluntary national insurance contributions and finding out whether it would be worthwhile, contact the HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500 or textphone 0300 200 3519.
We have more information about state benefits. You can also get benefits advice from our welfare rights advisers by calling the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.