Taken time out of work to raise your children? This new online service could help you maximise your state pension pot

 Mother holding hands with toddler daughter while walking on the grass in the park on a spring day.
Mother holding hands with toddler daughter while walking on the grass in the park on a spring day.

A new online service where people can check their National Insurance record and plug any gaps has been launched by HMRC, and it's great news for parents who have taken time out of work to raise their family.

When you take time off work to have a baby or raise your family, you can find your earnings dip below the threshold at which you should be paying National Insurance. This might seem great at the time, but having gaps in your NI payment record can mean you won't get the full state pension when you retire. And mothers are more likely to suffer the effects of the motherhood penalty, as they tend to be the ones to take the career breaks, and the most likely to request flexible working after parental leave.

But if you have got gaps in your NI record, the good news is you can go back and make voluntary payments to boost your pension if you need to. The Check your State Pension forecast is a joint service by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and launched on 29 April 2024.

What does this new service do and why do parents need to know?

The new service will show parents how much their state pension could increase if they resolved any gaps, and how much they could make in voluntary contributions in order to achieve the requirement to achieve the full state pension (you need 35 year of contributions to get the full state pension).

The online service comes after it was announced that the number of families opting out of child benefit payments has reached a record high. Those who opt-out of the payments could also be missing out on vital NI credits, and not know that it is possible to claim the credits without receiving the payments.

If you want to check your NI record, and how much state pension you are entitled to, you can access the forecast via the government website or the HMRC app.


Paying voluntary contributions will not always increase your state pension, but you can use the new service to check whether you could be better off in retirement before making any voluntary NI payments

Personal finance analyst at Bestinvest, Alice Haine, says: “The Government’s new online voluntary National Insurance payments service will hopefully speed up the cumbersome process for people looking to plug any gaps in their contribution record to secure their entitlement to a full State Pension.

“Until now, people wanting to top up their National Insurance contributions had to first check their state pension record for any payment gaps, then contact the Government’s Future Pension Service to assess how many years they could buy and whether voluntary contributions would boost their state pension. They then needed to contact HMRC to secure an 18-digit reference number to actually make the payment.

“The new service will speed this process up by allowing people logging into their Personal Tax Account or the HMRC app to not only view any payment gaps but also check if they can plug those gaps directly through the Government’s digital channels."

If you have a personal tax account (which you will if you claim tax credits or the Marriage Allowance, amongst others) you can access the forecast tool using the same log-in information. If you don't have a personal tax account, you can register for one on the Government website.

I'm back at work after raising kids, how far back can I make voluntary NI contributions?

If you've taken time out of work in the past to raise your family, but are now back in work full time, then it's still worth checking whether you have any gaps that need filling.

For the rest of the current tax year, which ends on 5 April 2025, you will be able to make voluntary contributions to make up any NI gaps over a 12-year period from 6 April 2006 and 5 April 2018. But when the new tax year begins on 6 April 2025, you will only be able to make voluntary contributions for the last 6 years, and not all the way back to 2006.

You might also be interested in the disproportionate impact childcare has on a mother's career, and the data that shows working mothers earned 43 per cent less than fathers in 2023.