'How do I ensure my UK National Insurance contributions are recognised?'

The Dubai resident wants to top up his state pension

The reader is concerned after hearing that any incorrect voluntary contributions cannot be refunded. Reuters
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I recently contacted HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the UK tax authority) about paying what is now an 11-year gap in National Insurance contributions. I want to pay seven to nine years of back payments. I lived and worked full-time for 15 years in the UK before relocating to the UAE in 2010. I was expecting to make Class 2 payments and was told an amount for each year that added up to £8,500 (Dh39,095). I read a clause on the HMRC website that said once you make any voluntary contributions, even if wrong or a mistake, it cannot be refunded. I also know people recently retired that paid a top up years ago and found they were never recorded correctly; they do not get the full pension. How do I ensure any NI contributions I make are recognised as Class 2 payments for the seven-year period? SC, Dubai

HMRC allows anyone who has lived and worked in the UK to make voluntary NI contributions to increase their entitlement to the country’s Basic State Pensions, no matter their nationality. Following rule changes in 2016, a minimum of 10 years’ worth of contributions must be paid to qualify for the Basic State Pension at UK State retirement age but anyone who has fewer than 35 years of contributions, the maximum qualifying amount, can make additional payments.

There are different classes of contributions although most expats and non-residents are eligible for Class 2 or Class 3 payments. In the current UK tax year, Class 2 payments are £3 per week and Class 3 £15 per week. According to HMRC, expats are only eligible to pay the lower Class 2 rate, "only if you worked in the UK immediately before leaving, and you've previously lived in the UK for at least 3 years in a row or paid at least 3 years of contributions".  Anyone not working and paying NI in the UK before they moved abroad will be asked to make the higher payments.

SC’s comment about incorrect payments are hearsay so impossible to comment on but it would be unusual for that to be the case. Logic dictates that any individual should keep records of payments made and request confirmation that it has been applied from HMRC. SC simply needs to ask the tax authority to send him an emailed confirmation or a letter advising that he may pay the lower Class 2 payments and what this will entitle him to.

Is a private driver working for a family entitled to an end of service gratuity? My contract will finish in January next year and I will not renew it as I plant to go home for good. CA, Dubai

As CA is working as a driver for a private family, as opposed to a commercial driver for a business, he is considered domestic staff. There was a change to the laws pertaining to domestic employees, Federal Law 10 of 2017, and whilst this increased rights and clarified many conditions it did not include any gratuity entitlement and domestic workers are not covered by UAE Labour Law. Unless CA has a contract containing an additional clause stating he is due an extra payment, he has no legal entitlement to receive a gratuity. Many employers make a payment as a gesture of goodwill but are not obliged to do so.

There are some newer contracts that include a gratuity for domestic workers but that is a contract issue, not entitlement in law.

Can I resign while I'm in my probation period? I just started my job and find it so stressful that I want to leave. Can I resign and give them notice? Will I be banned? AC, Abu Dhabi

Any employee can resign at any time by giving notice in accordance with their contract but there may be consequences. I assume AC has an employment visa and that UAE Labour Law applies. As she is in a probationary period, it is possible for the employer to request an employment ban for up to a year.

Generally, a labour ban is imposed on new non-skilled employees who do not complete six months of service. Anyone categorised as skill levels 1 (under-graduate degree or higher), skill level 2 (diplomas in any field) or skill level 3 (high school diploma) usually avoid a ban following a change in the law in 2016. Employees in skill levels 4 and 5, however, can receive an employment ban for breaking an employment contract before completing at least six months of service.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only