Pascal Soriot of drugmaker AstraZeneca was Britain’s highest earning chief executive last year, earning £15.4 million, according to new research.
The figure represents a 17% fall from median pay of £3.25 million recorded in 2019, as the pandemic hit the performance of many businesses and curtailed generous bonus payouts.
Soriot was followed in second place by Brian Cassin, boss of Experian, who made £10.3 million.
The research also showed that out of nine companies that used public money provided by the government’s coronavirus furlough scheme to pay their employees, average CEO pay over the period was £2.39 million.
The average bonus size dropped from £1.1 million to £828,000. The average long term incentive plan (LTIP) payment decreased from £2.4 million to £1.38 million.
High Pay Centre director Luke Hildyard said: “Very high CEO pay reflects a wider gap between rich and poor in the UK than in most other European countries. The inequalities exposed by the pandemic and the volume of public money used to protect large businesses could strengthen the argument for measures to contain top pay and re-balance extreme income differences.”
He said executive pay packages were designed to reflect the experience of shareholders, employees so in a sense the lower pay levels this year show the system working as intended.
“On the other hand, these are still very generous rewards for individuals who have already made millions of pounds over the course of their careers, at a time when, in general, government support for the economy has probably been more important to the survival and success of the UK’s biggest companies than the decisions of their executives.”