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A steep rise in long-term incentives meant directors at FTSE 100 companies earned 21% more in the last financial year, a report has found.

The study by employment research specialists Incomes Data Services (IDS) suggests average annual earnings for directors was £2.43m, with chief executives picking up £3.34m.

IDS said earnings pegged to long-term incentive plans, which include share options, rose by 44% and bonuses were up 14% in 2013/14.

Basic salaries gained only 2.5% over the period.

The figures highlight attempts, in the wake of the financial crisis, to end the potential for rewarding failure as share options are linked to long-term performance targets.

But they still contrast sharply with levels of pay across the UK s workforce, with official statistics showing a fall of 1.6% over the same 12 month period - with annual pay growth, including bonuses, most recently being measured at just 0.6%.

The report was released as hundreds of thousands of health workers went on strike in protest at the Government s decision not to give them a 1% pay rise.

Research by Sky News found the total pay package of the best paid CEO in the FTSE 100 index last year, Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, equals the combined salaries of 1,403 newly qualified NHS midwives.

Editor of the IDS pay report, Steve Tatton, said: FTSE 100 directors have seen their total earnings jump sharply in the last year, fuelled by a rise in the value of share-based awards.

Bonus payments have also recovered strongly following a downturn last year.

The pattern of pay growth highlights the complex make up of directors remuneration.

Salary rises may be modest but this can be more than made up for by the receipt of incentive payments.

When such incentives pay out, they can pay out substantial sums, giving a significant boost to directors earnings.

Chief executives at media, marketing and telecoms companies earned most in 2013/14, IDS said, with an average £6.98m.

CEOs at retail and distribution companies were found to be the lowest in the rankings with a median of £1.31m.

The report also showed the gap between chief executive pay and the rest of the workforce had widened significantly.  

Heads of FTSE 100 companies earned 120 times more than full-time employees on average, against a 47% difference in 2000. 

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