Mixed messages on 2014 pay landscape

It is good news that more than a third (42%) of employers are planning a pay rise in line with the retail prices index (RPI) in 2014, as found by the Confederation of British Industry/Accenture Employment trends survey, published in December.

However, the same report also found that just 7% of its 325 respondents intend to raise pay by more than RPI, while 39% intend to raise pay below RPI.

The trend towards pay stagnation is also evident among very senior staff. Consultancy EY’s research Into the light: a look back on 2013 and insights into the new landscape of executive reward, also published in December, found that more than a quarter (28%) of FTSE 250 chief executive officers did not see a base salary increase in 2013.

Deborah Hargreaves (pictured), director of the High Pay Centre, said: “[Chief executives] are seeing huge increases in their bonuses and share awards, so it’s slightly disingenuous to say they are not getting a rise at all, because those rises do feed through in other ways.

“I’m assuming that, if the economy goes on recovering, we’re going to see rises in share prices and, again, some big share awards this year.”

Pay and bonus increases

For instance, KPMG’s annual report for 2013, also published in December, showed that average partner pay had increased by 23%, from £580,000 to £713,000, and that its bonus pool across all employees rose by 20% in 2013, from £61 million to £73 million.

Private equity investment firm Terra Firma, which published its accounts for the year ending 31 March 2013 in January, also increased its pay pot for employees, from just over £17 million in 2012 to just over £37 million.

Meanwhile, bonuses for senior employees in the City are expected to increase by 44% in 2014, according to research by financial services recruitment firm Astbury Marsden in December.

However, under new legislation to cap European bankers’ bonuses, which came into effect from 1 January 2014, a salary/bonus ratio of 1:1 can only be raised to 1:2 with a shareholder vote of 65%. But it is still too early to see how the legislation will impact the industry.

Hargreaves added: “Unfortunately, the banks seem to be doing all they can to get around it. We’re seeing them introduce one-off payments of share awards, though at least they are giving them shares that [staff] have to hang on to for five years. It’s against the spirit of the bonus cap that they should all be whacking up these extra payments.”

UK CEOs’ pay

Analysis from the High Pay Centre, published in January 2014, found that UK chief executives earn more money in two days than the average UK employee earns in a whole year.

“It is a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but we wanted to use it to highlight the huge gap between those at the top and everyone else,” said Hargreaves.

“Everyone in the organisation is contributing to the success of that organisation, but they can never approach the sort of awards those at the top are earning.