How To Find Old Pensions

We’re likely to change jobs an average of 11 times throughout our working lives.  Factor in a few house moves and a couple of life milestones, it’s hardly surprising that we lose track of the odd pension along the way.

The dates you were working for an employer can sometimes suggests what might have happened to your pension.   As a rough guide the following dates can indicate whether a pension entitlement exists:

Pre April 1975

If you left your employer prior to April 1975, it’s likely that you would  have had your contributions refunded. At that time, various schemes didn’t require the employee to pay any contributions, and if this was the case, you probably won’t be entitled to any pension benefits from that scheme.

April 1975 – April 1988

If you left your employment between April 1975 and April 1988, you might have had a pension if you completed five years' service with that employer. If you left with less than five years’ service, you may well have had your contributions refunded, which means there's actually no pension pot to trace.

April 1988 to October 2012

If you left your employer after April 1988, you might have had a pension if you completed two years' service with that employer.  This is provided you had completed two years’ service. However, if you left with less than two years’ service, you might have had your contributions refunded instead, in which case, there’s actually no pension pot to trace.

Workplace Pensions and Auto enrolment from October 2012

Auto-enrolment began in October 2012, though the introduction was staged so that it applied only to the UK's largest employers initially, with medium and smaller sized employers required to enrol employees by certain specified dates up to April 2017. From these (size-dependent) dates, all employers have been obliged to automatically enrol their eligible workers into a workplace pension scheme. So if you met the eligibility criteria, unless you chose to opt out of that scheme, you will have a pension pot.

If you opted out within the first month of being auto enrolled, the contributions are usually refunded.  If, however, the choice to opt out is delayed beyond a month, the contributions paid are held within the pension.

From April 2017 all eligible employees were enrolled into a pension and this pot will exist unless they opted out, or subsequently transferred it.

How To Track Your Pensions

There are various ways of tracking down your pensions. Here are some of your options:

HMRC provides an online tracing service.  In just a couple of steps, you may find the information you’re looking for and a contact that you can send your Zippen information request to If you prefer, you can call the Pension Tracing Service on 0800 7310193.

Contact your former employers

Get in touch with the HR department at your previous employment(s) and ask if you might have been a member of their pension scheme.  It’s possible that they’ll know which provider the pension scheme was with at the time of your employment, although they might not know if you were actually a member.  

Let’s be honest, it can be a little awkward approaching a former employer and what if this employer no longer exists?  You could…

Phone a Friend 

Track down some old colleagues through friends or maybe via Instagram/Facebook/Linkedin/Snapchat etc and find out what they know – maybe they’ve been through a similar process and will know the answer straightaway.

Ask the Audience

If you have an inkling that the “lost” pension was possibly with a certain provider you could contact them directly.  They’ll soon say if they can’t trace you and there’s absolutely no harm in asking.  Even if the pension provider no longer exists in its own right, it’s a case of working out which pension company took over another and this can lead you to the appropriate contact.

Use The Zippen Pension Tracing Service 

Still stuck? No problem. Let Zippen help you.

We’ve created a convenient, affordable, accessible, trustworthy and transparent advised solution, with a friendly digital process.  

What’s Next? Transferring Old Pensions

Here’s how it works:

How to find old pensions by Zippen

The sheer volume of small pension pots that have been ‘lost’ in the system or that IFAs think are too tiny to bother with, led us to launch Zippen.  We trace pots with the aim of consolidating them into an existing arrangement you already have. You can now have all your pensions in one place, without needing any new plan, or having to pay any additional ongoing policy fees. 

Related articles

Start taking control of your pensions

Combine all your pension pots into one plan. It takes just 60 seconds to sign up.

Get Started