FTSE 100 CEOs have already earned more than average yearly salary

Average FTSE 100 CEO pay currently stands at £3.81 million

The median FTSE 100 CEO’s earnings for 2024 has already surpassed the average annual salary, according to research from the High Pay Centre (HPC).

HPC estimates that top CEOs had out earned the median annual salary for a full-time worker in the UK by around 1pm on Thursday 4 January, the third working day of 2024.

Andrew Speke, head of communications at the HPC, told HR magazine: “Pay has risen so high over the last four decades as CEO pay became dependent on shareholder returns. 

“Meanwhile, the weakening of worker and union rights leading to lower trade unionisation

“These factors have both undermined the growth of worker pay but also enabled extremely high rewards for CEOs.”

Read more: CEO pay up by half a million despite continuing cost of living crisis

Median FTSE 100 CEO pay (excluding pension) currently stands at £3.81 million, 109 times the median full time worker’s pay of £34,963. 

This represents an 9.5% increase on median CEO pay levels as of March 2023, while the median worker’s pay has increased by 6%. 

A spokesperson from business interest group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “The CBI has always been clear: high pay is only acceptable when matched by exceptional performance. Firms should also always demonstrate how executive pay links to the delivery of company strategy.

“All businesses will be acutely aware of the sensitivities around executive rewards, particularly against the backdrop of a serious cost of living squeeze.”

Other FTSE 350 executives with a median pay of £1.32 million will need to work until 10 January for their pay to overtake the annual pay of the median UK worker.

A partner at a highly prestigious and corporate-focused 'magic circle' law firm, with average pay at £1.92 million, would need to work until 8 January.

Meanwhile, a partner at one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms, with an average pay of £871,000, would need to work until 16 January.

The figures come after leading figures in the city called for UK CEOs to be paid more last year. 

In December 2023, Legal and General Investment Management adjusted its executive pay guidelines to permit firms they invest in to offer more generous incentive payments.

Earlier in the year, the London Stock Exchange chief executive argued that low CEO pay levels create a risk to the UK economy.

FTSE CEO pay increased by £500,000 (16%) last year. 

Read more: High-earner pay rises threaten inflation spiral

According to the latest Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts, real wages won’t recover to their 2008 value until 2028.  

Trades Union Congress general secretary Paul Nowak said that workers must be prioritised in pay rises.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “While working people have been forced to suffer the longest wage squeeze in modern history, City bosses have been allowed to pocket bumper rises and bankers have been given unlimited bonuses. 

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We need an economy that rewards work – not just wealth. 

“That means putting workers on company boards to inject some much-needed common sense into boardrooms. It means taxing wealth fairly. And it means a government that is willing to work with unions and employers to drive up living standards for all.”

HPC’s calculations are based on its analysis of the most recent CEO pay disclosures published in companies’ annual reports, combined with government statistics showing pay levels across the UK economy.