Workers’ rights and inequality activists are calling for reforms as the UK marks Fat Cat Friday - the day when the nation’s top bosses will have earned more in 2019 than average Britons will make in the whole year.
The average pay of a FTSE 100 company chief last year was £3.9m - 133 times more than the average UK full-time salary of £29,574.
To put it another way, the FTSE chiefs “needed to work only 29 hours this year to reach average annual pay in Britain, two hours less than last year”, says The Times.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Although wages have stagnated for many ordinary workers, top bosses enjoyed an average raise of 11% in 2018.
The so-called Fat Cat Day campaign was launched by the High Pay Centre think tank and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in order to “draw attention to the vast discrepancy in British wages”, says The Independent.
“We recognise that the language is quite extreme but so is the situation,” said CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese, who blames a leader-centric view of business for the growing gap.
“Excessive pay packages awarded by remuneration committees represent a significant failure in corporate governance and perpetuate the idea of a ‘superstar’ business leader when business is a collective endeavour and reward should be shared more fairly,” he said.
But some commentators have criticised the Fat Cat Day initiative as unhelpful and misdirected.
Matthew Lesh, head of research at neo-liberal think-tank The Adam Smith Institute, accuses the CIPD of using the “politics of envy”.
“If these activist organisations cared about workers... they would talk about ways to actually increase worker pay,” he said.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of gender equality charity the Fawcett Society, argues that the Government needs to go further to “hold employers accountable” for addressing pay gaps in the workplace.
In an article for Metro, Smethers welcomes the recent introduction of laws that require large companies to publish salary data, but says firms must also be made to produce tangible targets and plans of action to address the imbalances.
Fat Cat Friday also highlights the gender imbalance at the top of the pay scale, she adds.
“The truth is the cats at the top of the income tree are overwhelmingly male, while the lesser-fed worker variety at the bottom are predominantly female,” Smethers writes.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.