FTSE 100 chief executives’ pay rose by 39% to a median of £3.4 million in 2021, according to research by the High Pay Centre and the TUC.
Researchers found that FTSE bosses’ median wages were 109 times that of the median UK full-time worker, compared to 79 times in 2020 and 107 times greater in 2019.
A dip in CEO pay during the pandemic is partly behind the sharp increase, as the £3.4 million figure for 2021 is just 5% higher than the median in 2019, which was £3.25 million.
The highest paid CEO in the FTSE 100 in 2021 was Sebastien De Montessus of mining company Endeavour, who was paid £16.9 million. He replaced Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, in the top spot, who earned £13.9 million last year.
Albert Manifold, CEO of construction company CRH, was the third highest paid CEO, with overall compensation of £11.7 million.
There was only one woman in the 10 highest paid CEOs list – Emma Walmsley, CEO of pharmaceutical company GSK.
In the FTSE 250, however, one CEO was paid more than any of those in the FTSE 100. Frederic Vecchioli, CEO of Safestore, was paid £17.1 million in 2021.
The HPC and TUC also found that, in total, FTSE companies spent almost three-quarters of a billion on executive pay, awarding £720.21 million to 224 executives.
The increase in median pay for FTSE 250 executives was 38%, with median pay rising from £1.25 million in 2020 to £1.72 million in 2021.
The research comes as workers express increasing anger at below-inflation pay rises. Last week, the Office for National Statistics reported that inflation hit 10.1% in July, with real-terms wage growth down by 3%.
The HPC and the TUC have called for reforms to regulations affecting the executive pay setting process, which would include a requirement for companies to have two elected workforce representatives on remuneration committees.
They also want companies to guarantee trade union access so employees can learn about the benefits of union membership and collective bargaining, as well as more detailed reporting disclosure around pay so there is greater transparency.
“This approach is already commonplace in many countries and works very well. The government should give UK workers this opportunity too,” said Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary.
“Workers deserve a fair share of the wealth they create. But right now, CEO pay is soaring while working people experience the biggest real wage falls in 20 years.
“These unbalanced pay policies have seen the gap widen between workers and bosses this year, adding to the cost of living crisis.”