Money Grouse: Penalised because of her date of birth

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The Independent Online
The amount of state earnings-related pension a person receives is based on the National Insurance contributions made over one's working life, including the last full financial year - April to March - before retirement.

But what happens if your birthday is in March or early April? Almost a full year's contributions will have been paid without you seeing the benefit in terms of an increased pension.

For maths teacher Rhiannon Beech, whose birthday is in late February, it all adds up to a system that appears to penalise women who give up work to look after children. After all, they are the ones least likely to have made the contributions needed for a full pension.

Mrs Beech, from Monmouth, Gwent, another runner-up in the Money Grouse competition, can only pay her NICs until February, when she is 60, even though she intends to stay at work until August.

She said: 'I will keep on until the end of the school year because I have pupils taking exams this summer and one cannot simply leave them halfway through.

'As I am not entitled to a full pension, I had hoped to be allowed to continue contributions to April at least, in order to complete a full contributory year.

'I telephoned a Department of Social Security helpline and discovered that the rules say the year in which one is 60 - and presumably 65 for men - does not count towards the pensions calculation.'

Mrs Beech would like the DSS to allow people to choose whether they can continue to make payments after their formal retirement date, especially if they remain at work beyond their 60th or 65th birthday.

Given that by the time her contributions stop she will have paid more than pounds 2,000 worth of NI contributions in her final 10 months - none of which will count towards her pension - it does not seem too much to ask.

A spokeswoman for the Contributions Agency, the body that administers the National Insurance scheme, confirmed that the rules do not allow a part financial year to count towards state earnings-related pensions.

But women who leave work to care for their children or other dependents can count that time towards their basic state pension. The scheme is called Home Responsibilities Protection.

A person receiving child benefit automatically has those years counted towards the state pension. Someone caring for an elderly or other dependent must apply to receive Home Responsibilities Protection. Forms are available at all DSS offices.

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