Chief executives (CEOs) enjoyed a 15.8% increase in their salaries in the past year, largely made up of bonuses, revealed research by the Chartered Institute of Management (CIM).
Company bosses have enjoyed a "bonus boom" which has boosted their pay despite the state of the economy, according to a new study.
Average pay for a company chief executive stands at more than £215,000, compared with around £43,000 for a middle manager.
The survey of 43,000 executives in 180 organisations showed that chief executives' pay increased five times as much as that of the average executive in the past 12 months. The basic salary of chief executives rose by 1.8% last year, but "leapt" to 15.8% when bonuses were added.
Ann Francke, chief executive of the CMI, said: "It's hard to believe that company directors and CEOs have seen such a big leap in bonus payments when the UK's economic performance remains so sluggish.
"If organisations aren't performing, leaders shouldn't get these bumper rewards, especially when pay increases for all other management levels have been so much smaller."
The average chief executive is taking home almost 20 times as much as in 1973, when the salary survey was first launched. More than two-fifths of those questioned received a bonus last year.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union leader Bob Crow said: "This survey nails the lie that we are all in this together. While Britain's boardrooms are awash with cash, and top bosses' pay and bonuses are up in the double digits, millions of working people are facing an all-out assault on their living standards in the name of austerity."
Mark Crail of XpertHR, which helped with the study, said: "Through good times and bad, those at the very top have enjoyed pay rises over a period of 40 years that have opened up a massive gap, not just with workers on the shop floor but with middle and even relatively senior managers.
"In 1973 when we launched this survey, a typical chief executive earned less than three times as much as a middle manager; today they earn nearly five times as much. This isn't just a short-term boost for top executives, it's a big long-term change in society."