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Unable to Pay National Insurance: Is this Sex Discrimination?

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 16 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
National Insurance Benefit Child Sex

Q.We have been relocated (against our wishes) abroad so husband can retain employment. It is a temporary stay and we will still be resident for tax purposes in the UK. I am actually not working at the moment as I look after my children.

I got in touch with Child Benefit to tell them this and was shocked to find my child benefit instantly stopped, but more important than the money is the fact that this will affect my ability to get my national insurance credited for my state pension (through home responsibility protection). My husband however, will not have his state pension affected as he will pay National Insurance directly.

I feel this is indirect sex discrimination. Because I am the carer (mostly a female role) - my position is being differently assessed to him as the earner, which is surely discriminatory? Am I right that this could be sex discrimination? Please advise? We are not big earners and to buy back will cost (the company won't pay it). Please could you advise?

(F.D, 23 April 2009)


As you have been relocated abroad for work against your wishes it is obviously difficult to deal with any problems that this presents. It must seem very unfair that your child benefit is being stopped and that your national insurance will not be credited.

Child benefit is only available for the first 8 weeks if you are living outside the UK and then you will no longer be able to claim it. Child benefit is also linked to home responsibility protection which means that if you are a stay at home parent then your pension will not be penalized for the years that you do not pay national insurance.

As you will no longer be claiming child benefit you are right that this will affect your home responsibility protection and could therefore mean your pension pot could be less.

Sex discrimination is when a person is treated differently or unfairly because of their gender or sexuality. Indirect sex discrimination is when a practice or policy is put in place that negatively affects one gender more than the other. These issues are often raised with regard to women and work as they are generally more likely, as you say, to be the main caregiver.

The government do everything that they can to ensure that women are given fair treatment and this is demonstrated by the home responsibility protection that they have put in place. It is unfortunate that you are no longer eligible for this but, although it was against your wishes, you made the choice to move abroad when these rules are in place.

Being abroad, your husband is in a better position as his national insurance contributions will not be affected but this is no a case of sex discrimination as in normal circumstances, your rights would be protected and you still have the choice to work or make voluntary contributions.

You may still want to consider topping up your years. However, if you were working and paying national insurance before, have been on home responsibility protection before and will be again when you return, then you may find that you have not missed enough years to affect your allowance.

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