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UK 'Fat Cat' Pay Controversy Reignites as CEOs Earn Average Worker's Annual Salary in Four Days

Updated: Jan 19

The debate over exorbitant executive pay in the United Kingdom has resurfaced, with a recent study by the High Pay Centre (HPC) revealing that a typical FTSE 100 CEO earns the average annual salary of a full-time worker within just four days into the new year. The analysis, based on remuneration disclosures from companies' annual reports and government pay statistics, disclosed that the median FTSE 100 CEO pay (excluding pension) stands at £3.81 million, compared to the median full-time worker's pay of £34,963.

UK 'Fat Cat' Pay Controversy Reignites as CEOs Earn Average Worker's Annual Salary in Four Days

Amid forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility indicating that real wages may not recover to their 2008 levels until 2028, the HPC has called for greater transparency. Specifically, the HPC advocates for companies to provide detailed information on job offerings at different pay levels and to explain to their workforce the reasons behind the significant gaps between worker and CEO pay.

Despite existing rules on executive compensation disclosure in the UK, such as the Companies (Miscellaneous Reporting) Regulations 2018, which mandates publicly listed firms with over 250 employees to publish CEO pay ratios, there is concern that these measures have not curbed the escalation of executive pay. The regulations require firms to explain year-to-year changes in ratios, justify median ratios in line with wider employee pay policies, and disclose how future share price increases might impact executive pay.

However, critics argue that there is little practical hindrance to escalating pay awards unless investors actively vote against them, a rarity in practice. The issue of CEO pay has been somewhat downplayed amid Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, with the government and the city supporting efforts to raise executive salaries to attract and retain top talent.


The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has been vocal in its criticism of pay disparities, advocating for worker representation on company boards to introduce more common sense into decision-making. Some board members themselves acknowledge concerns about excessive executive pay, with calls for remuneration committees to explore alternative incentives beyond base salaries, particularly during challenging economic times.

Kathleen Harmeston, a nonexecutive director, C-suite coach, and management consultant, emphasized the negative impact of increasing executive pay during economic difficulties, suggesting that funds allocated for CEO pay rises could be redirected to address other staff budget needs. She highlighted the need for remuneration committees to explore diverse avenues for incentivizing leadership, considering the prevailing economic climate and the multimillionaire status of many CEOs.

The ongoing discussion around executive pay underscores the broader issues of income inequality and the need for greater accountability and transparency in corporate compensation structures.



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