You might hear the words “National Insurance” or “NI” get thrown around, or might see it on your payslip. But what exactly is it, and what does it mean?
What is National Insurance?
National Insurance is a form of compulsory tax paid by employees and their employers.
Payment of NI is used to determine whether or not you qualify for state benefits, like the State Pension, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Maternity Allowance.
For NHS junior doctors, NI will be automatically deducted from your salary. Unlike your NHS pension, you cannot opt-out of NI payments.
National Insurance rates
Rates of NI vary depending on how much you earn. According to gov.uk, the 2019/20 rates of NI are as follows.
- Workers earning below £166 per week pay no NI
- Workers earning between £166 and £962 per week (£719 to £4,167 per month) pay 12% of their salary as NI
- Any earnings over £962 per week (over £4,167 per month) are charged at 2% of earnings.
(Employers also pay NI on your behalf at a different rate – although from your perspective this is inconsequential and can be ignored.)
Uncommonly, some workers may pay a different rate of NI – these circumstances are outlined here. Most junior doctors, however, will pay the standard rate.
You can use the pay calculator to see how much NI you will pay on the standard rate.
Checking your National Insurance record
Over the course of your career, you will contribute NI payments while earning a salary and living in the UK. Depending on how many years you have paid in, you will be eligible at the State Pension age to receive a full or partial State Pension or none at all.
You can check your record through HMRC’s online account to see whether you are up to date with your payments.
Sometimes you may have a gap in your record if you were not earning a wage, working abroad or earning less than the NI threshold. If this is the case, you may be provided with the option to pay “voluntary contributions” and re-establish your eligibility to reclaim the full State Pension.