Benefits Expert: ‘Can I opt out of pension?’

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Q FROM what I hear at work, redundancies are on the way.

The last time this happened I signed on the dole only to receive a piddling amount because I had a small pension from a previous job. But I carried on signing to put credits on to my National Insurance record to safeguard my State Pension.

Do I need to do this this time round? I hear that you now only need 30 years on your record for a full pension, but how recent do these years need to be?

If there is no need to sign on to “keep my stamp up” I will not bother.

Curious, aged 50.

A YES, you now need only 30 qualifying years.

They can date from any time from 16 to pension age, which the Government plans will be 67 for someone of your age.

To find out how many qualifying years you have already clocked up ask the Pensions Service on 0845 300 0168 for a pension forecast.

If you are some years short you have 17 years to make up the shortfall.

Q MY husband cannot get Jobseeker’s Allowance because he has not paid enough recent National Insurance.

The gaps in his record were for periods when his employer kept laying him off.

Even though he told the Jobcentre about this at the time they did not tell him he could sign on to cover his National Insurance.

He recently had a letter saying he could pay £432 National Insurance to cover gaps in his record. He asked the Jobcentre about it and they said it would be best to pay it, so we did.

Did we do the right thing?

Mrs T (by Email).

A THESE were voluntary contributions which he was not obliged to pay and I doubt if he has gained anything by paying them.

They will not count towards unemployment or sickness benefits and he would possibly achieve his 30 qualifying years for State Pension without them.

There are many factors to consider before you decide to pay voluntary contributions and Jobcentre staff should not be telling customers how they should spend their money.

I think he has a case for asking an organisation like the Citizens Advice Bureau to help seek compensation for misdirection.

Q A RADIO advert says that if you are not in a work’s pension scheme your employer will force you into one this October. Is this true and can you opt out?

Confused (Sunderland).

A BIG firms will start “enrolling” non-scheme workers into works’ pensions later in the year. Smaller companies will follow, but anyone can opt out.