NEW POLLING commissioned by the Equality Trust from Opinium has revealed huge public support for government action to dampen executive pay and distribute pay more evenly within companies.

The polling, conducted in December 2021, asked a representative sample of 2000 adults across the UK to respond to questions focusing on issues of high pay for FTSE 100 CEOs, exploring how the public felt towards a range of issues and perspectives around executive pay and pay disparities between average workers and highly paid executives.

Responses to the survey demonstrated a high level of dissatisfaction with yawning disparities in pay between average workers and highly paid executives. Findings from the polling include:

  • 73 per cent of people agree that the gap in pay between average workers and the highest paid executives in the UK is too wide.
  • 77 per cent of respondents agreed that companies that benefited from public support through the Covid-19 pandemic (e.g. the government furlough scheme) should not be increasing the pay of their highest paid executives
  • 73 per cent agree that companies should not be increasing the pay of their highest paid executives while the economy is still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.
  • 72 per cent agree with the statement that government action and regulation is needed to ensure  companies provide a more equitable distribution of pay packages between Chief Executives and average workers.

The results come as adults and families across the UK are set to see their incomes hit in April by the perfect storm of rising food, fuel and clothing prices compounded by inflation, soaring energy bills and an increase in National Insurance contributions. April is the time when FTSE-100 companies traditionally hold their AGMs, where they decide the pay of their highest paid executives.

While the pandemic saw a dip in CEO pay in the FTSE-100 with some CEOs voluntarily forgoing bonuses, there are concerns that this year’s AGM season could see figures rebound as executives push for ‘catch up’ pay to compensate for two years of what they see as restraint.

Dr Zubaida Haque, Executive Director of The Equality Trust, said: “Across the country, the cost of living crisis is pushing people to the brink as they face rising energy costs, travel costs, the increase in National Insurance and stagnant wages. When the country as a whole is struggling, it’s simply not acceptable for companies to be handing out huge paychecks to their executives – especially after a pandemic when so many companies relied on taxpayers to make it through.”

“This is also not a short term issue limited to the financial crisis. Ever rising CEO pay is a structural issue that has persisted for decades while workers’ pay has stagnated. Companies need to recognise the role they play in perpetuating inequality in society and make fundamental changes to how they are governed.”

* Read Unjust Rewards: Public opinion on CEO pay here.

* Source: Equality Trust