UK - People will be allowed to buy back up to nine years in which they did not contribute to their state pension at any time before their retirement, if the House of Commons accepts a House of Lords' amendment to the Pension Bill.

The amendment is expected to mainly benefit women who may not have made contributions to their state pension while taking time out from work to have and raise children.

Yesterday, the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British legislature, overwhelmingly accepted the amendment by 179 votes in favour to 86 against.

Currently, people can make payments up to six years after years when they have not made contributions. After that time the opportunity is lost.

Tabling the amendment Baroness Hollis pointed out many women do not know until the day they retire "whether they would have needed the extra years".

She added: "If they buy the extra years at the time, they may have wasted their money but, if they do not, they may have lost their pension rights."

Her proposal, which now has to go back to the House of Commons, will allow people to buy back up to nine consecutive or non-consecutive years without a time limit.

Welcoming the "groundbreaking amendment" the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) pointed out in a statement that under the current pension system, just 25% of women are entitled to a full basic state pension, compared with 95% of men.

"This shortfall is caused because the contribution women make outside of paid employment, caring for children and relatives, which has not been recognised with credits to the state pension," the EOC noted.

An EOC spokesman told IPE that the amendment will mean an increase in the access of women to key pension benefits such as savings credit as these are only available to those with a full basic state pension.

Baroness Hollis said that she expected that around 20,000 to 40,000 women per year would make use of the amended buy-back provision.

Currently around 250,000 people, "the better educated and probably the better-off" like students and people working abroad, buy back years in which they did not contribute to their state pension, she added.