By Jonathan Davies

More than £42 billion was paid to UK workers in the form of bonuses in the 2014-15 financial year, just shy of pre-crisis levels, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In cash terms, last year's bonuses were just 0.1% lower than the peak seen in 2007-08. On an annual basis, bonuses were up 2.7% from 2013-14.

The financial and insurance sectors, where the majority of public outcry over bonuses has come, were still below their pre-crisis levels and in fact fell by £1.5 billion (9.6%) to £13.6bn.

However, the ONS explained that this may have been "partly because this industry is more prone than others to concentrate their payments into a December-to-March 'bonus season', and in 2013, a number of bonus payments were deferred from March into April".

The ONS said that the rest of the economy saw bonuses "considerably higher" last year, however. Bonuses rose 9.7% to £28.8bn.

Professional, scientific and technical service sectors saw the biggest annual rise, with the total bonus pool jumping £900 million, followed by information and communication at £500m.

James Sproule, Chief Economist at the Institute of Directors said: “Bonuses are a fundamental feature of a flexible labour market and make up a key component of the remuneration mix. They allow businesses to reward staff for their achievements over a set period of time and are often directly linked to an individual’s or the company’s performance. This means when times are good, companies can share profits with staff without increasing their labour costs to an unsustainable level. Today’s figures, which show both bonuses and base salaries continue to rise is good news, and another sign of improved corporate performance and strong business confidence."