By Daniel Hunter

The difference between the amount of money earned by senior executives and managers, and low-level workers is growing more quickly in the UK than in Europe, according to global management consultancy Hay Group.

The pay gap between low-level workers (skilled manual, clerical, supervisor or graduate entry jobs) and senior managers (heads of departments or equivalent) is now on the rise in twice as many countries as it is falling (42 to 21).

In the UK, the pay gap has grown by 5.3% since 2008, more than double the European average of 2.2%. The gap in North America rose quickest at 7.2%, with the US' gap alone growing by 10.6%

Adam Burden, consultant at Hay Group, said: “Globally, the job level pay gap increase has accelerated since the recession. However it is not purely a post-recession issue. This is a complex trend that has been building for the past 30 years, through economic boom as well as bust. We’re seeing it impact different geographies in different ways, as the influence of local attitudes to employment and pay is felt in each region.”

There were decreases in the pay gap, however. Switzerland, France and Poland all saw the gap close since the financial crisis with drops of 3.3%, 5.6%, and 12.8% respectively.

Adam Burden added: “Despite an average global increase in the job level pay gap, Europe and America have diverged in part due to local employment practices. In response to the recession, many companies in Europe, including the UK, introduced pay freezes.

“In comparison, U.S. companies more frequently cut jobs and asked the remaining senior managers to expand their scope of work during the recession. Many of those who remained employed received a pay increase as compensation for their expanded role, leading in part to the widening job level pay gap.”