Ask Annie: Can an 'earth mother' abandon work and still get a full pension?

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Q. My daughter, at 32 years old, has just had her first baby, having worked from the age of 18 and paid national insurance contributions (NICs) while doing so. I know she is entitled to home responsibility protection (HRP) for the first five years of bringing up her child, but she doesn't want to go back to work at all; she wants to be an "earth mother", looking after the home and the family's well-being.

However, she is not married to her partner and he is employed only on a part-time basis. Would she still be entitled to a state pension based on his contributions or, as she is not married, does this leave her without a state pension or on a reduced retirement fund? SMB, York

Your daughter is just 32 and is already planning to do no more paid work before she reaches retirement – at which point she will no doubt expect the state to take care of her.

Owing to changes in the rules, she will not be able to draw her state pension until the age of 67 in 2043. But because she will reach pension age after 6 April 2010, when other new rules come in, she will need only 30 years of NICs paid or credited to her account to entitle her to the full pension, against the 39 years required of those retiring now.

As your daughter has been working for 14 years already, so presumably has 14 years' NICs under her belt, she will need only another 16 to qualify.

She is also fortunate that after April 2010 a non-working parent will receive full NI credits for each week she gets child benefit for a child under 12. These credits count towards entitlement to the basic state pension and the state second pension.

This is a change to the current rules on HRP, which boosts the pension entitlement of a non-working carer but is less generous than the new credits. HRP is payable only for whole years of childcare when no NICs have been made. Your daughter may have a brief HRP qualification before April 2010.

With a 14-year contributions record, a couple of years of HRP and some NI credits, she is well on the way to a full state pension already. If there is a gap anywhere, she should easily be able to achieve the full 30 years' worth of contributions by having more children, so extending the period during which she receives child benefit to help build up a pension.

Alternatively, she could make voluntary (Class 3) contributions for the missing period in her NIC record. The current rate is £7.80 a week.

She can get a state pension forecast at any time by downloading form BR19 from or phoning 0845 300 0168.

To benefit from NICs made by her partner, your daughter would have to marry him as unmarried partners are not recognised for state pension purposes. But as she is already well provided for in this respect, she does not need to do this.

It might just benefit her partner to make their relationship a more formal one, as he works only part time. A married man reaching retirement age after 6 April 2010 will be able to claim a reduced state pension based on his wife's NICs, in addition to his own pension rights, as long as she is already claiming her own state pension.

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