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You asked: What are protected rights?

Protected rights were the value of the government's payments paid into your own pension arrangement. The money came from National Insurance contributions you made above those needed for the basic state pension. If you contracted out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme (SERPS) or the State Second Pension, the government redirected your contributions to your personal pension instead. This was known as contracting out. There used to be a difference between how you could use protected rights and non-protected rights benefits. When contracting out ended on the 6 April 2012, this difference ended and protected rights and non-protected rights are now treated the same.

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