Unite Students chief exec received £2.7m pay package in 2019

Unite Students chief executive pay increased from £2.1m to £2.7m last year

The chief executive of Unite Students, the UK’s largest student housing company, was paid £2.7 million last year, according to the company’s most recent annual report.

Chief executive Richard Smith saw his total remuneration, which includes his salary, bonus and pension, increase from £2.1m in 2018 to £2.7m in 2019. Mr Smith’s total remuneration was £1.4m in 2017.

His package includes £456,692 in salary, £16,195 in taxable benefits, £80,957 in pension, £519,361 in annual bonus, and £1,653,245 through a long-term incentive plan that includes shares in the company.

Mr Smith is eligible for an annual bonus worth 140% of his total salary – last year, his bonus accounted for 113.3% of his salary. According to company rules, bonus payments in excess of 100% of salary, which this year totalled £60,805 for Mr Smith, must be deferred in Unite shares for two years.

The 2019 pay package was agreed before the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the annual report, salaries for Unite employees increased by 2.5% last year. A Unite spokesman said executive remuneration was “determined by an independent committee and approved by shareholders”. The organisation added that remuneration is “predominantly made up of variable compensation based on the achievement of a number of challenging objectives”.

Chief executive pay is “reviewed from time to time, with reference to salary levels for similar roles at comparable companies, to individual contribution to performance; and to the experience of each executive,” the annual report states.

Unite’s board has agreed a 30% reduction to salaries and a suspension of bonus payments for 2020. Unite added that it was “the first student accommodation provider to forgo summer term rents, at a cost of £100 million”.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said it was “absolutely galling” that the chief executive was remunerated so highly at a time “when so many tenants are being forced to self-isolate”.

Read more: NSS 2020: results for UK universities released

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