FTSE 350 executives have seen their bonuses fall for the second year in a row as companies respond to shareholder pressure for pay restraint, with one in 10 receiving no bonus at all.

Total pay – made up of salary, bonus, long-term incentives and pension – was largely static across senior management positions, according to a survey by PwC, the professional services firm.

Where salary increases have been given, they were roughly in line with inflation at an average of 3 per cent, consistent with 2012 levels, it said. One in five of FTSE 100 and 15 per cent of FTSE 250 chief executives have had pay freezes.

There have been conflicting accounts of executive pay since last year’s so-called “shareholder spring”, resulting from different methodologies. A recent study by Manifest and MM&K said median earnings of FTSE 100 chief executives had risen by 8 per cent.

That, however, was based on payouts from long-term incentive schemes, whereas PwC’s survey measured the expected future value of awards.

Reforms by Vince Cable, business secretary, will give shareholders binding votes on executive pay policy every three years from next month and force companies to make pay more transparent.

In the PwC survey, where bonuses were awarded to FTSE 100 chief executives, median payout was £905,000, a 7 per cent fall from last year’s £975,000. This meant FTSE 100 chiefs received on average just over two-thirds of maximum payout – a drop from the high in 2011, where bonus payouts were typically more than three-quarters of the maximum.

PwC said FTSE 350 companies were planning minimal changes to pay levels next year, with most budgeting pay rises of between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent for all management levels.

Tom Gosling, head of PwC’s reward practice, said: “It is unsurprising that following a bruising 2012, companies have been keen to avoid the spotlight by demonstrating a responsible approach to executive pay.”

Companies had heard “loud and clear” from shareholders that bonuses and pay rises that are not closely linked to performance are unacceptable, he said.

Mr Gosling said if the early signs of economic recovery translate to improved company performance, remuneration committees will face a conundrum.

“Improved performance should lead to higher bonus payouts, but remuneration committees will be keen to continue showing restraint in what remains a controversial area. The key will be for companies to demonstrate a very robust link between pay and performance.”

The survey showed that senior management and executives below board level in the FTSE 100 had seen the largest drop in annual bonus payments: their bonuses as a percentage of maximum payout fell from 70 per cent in 2012 to 62 per cent in 2013.

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