How is a "qualifying year" for the purposes of a UK pension defined? Is it a number of weeks of NIC contributions or is it the annual amount of NICs paid that matters?

UK National Insurance contributions are calculated weekly, with a Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) set at £116 (see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rates-and-allowances-national-insurance-contributions/rates-and-allowances-national-insurance-contributions).

It is clear that if I have an income of at least £116 a week throughout the year, I will qualify.

But what if my income is not even throughout the year? Is it enough to exceed the annual total of 116 x 52 = £6,032?


Suppose I am paid £500 a week for 13 weeks, but work abroad for the rest of the year. In this case, my UK income is £6,500 and I will have paid 13 weeks of NICs.

Will this year be a qualifying year in my NIC contribution record?

  • I believe it's enough to average above the LEL, but I can't quickly find anywhere official that says that
    – AakashM
    Apr 17, 2018 at 11:49

1 Answer 1


Answering my own question:

What is meant by ‘a qualifying year’?

Since April 1978 a qualifying year has meant a tax year in which a person received (or was treated as having received) qualifying earnings of at least 52 times the weekly Lower Earnings Limit set for that year.

[SSCBA 1992 section 122]

For the tax years 1975/76 – 1977/78, a qualifying year is 50 times the weekly Lower Earnings Limit set for each year.

[SS Act 1975 Sch 3]

Quoted from NP46: A detailed guide to State Pensions for advisers and others (August 2008)

Is this information still current? I found NP46 on the National Archives website and couldn't find a more recent version on the Department of Work and Pensions website.

This "Standard Note" SN 3111 - Basic State Pension - contribution conditions [pdf] from the House of Commons Library was issued in October 2014 and still quotes the same regulations:

What is meant by ‘enough contributions’?

A person has to have paid, been treated as having paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions on their earnings in a given tax year for it to count as a qualifying year. [SSCBA 1992 section 122 (1)]

  • SSCBA 1992 is the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act, which according to Wikipedia is "the primary legislation concerning the state retirement provision, accident insurance, statutory sick pay and maternity pay in the United Kingdom." So I assume the provisions of this act are still in effect and the information above is current.
    – Michael D.
    Apr 17, 2018 at 11:55

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