Drilling down into the data, it's clear who the big winners are. Of the £37bn in bonus payments, £13bn (or 36%) was doled out to executives in the finance and insurance industry, despite the fact that only 4% of UK employees work in these fields. However, proof that the bonus culture is being slowly eroded in this sector, this is a 9% fall on 2010-11 and a far cry from the finance and insurance bonus payments seen during 2006/07 and 2007/08, adds the ONS, when bonus payments were at their historical peak.
Nevertheless, there's still big money to be made in the UK financial sector. The average bonus per employee last year stood at £12,000, down 11% on 2010, but substantially higher than in any other part of the economy.
However, the biggest increases in bonus pay-outs were actually fuelled by increased remuneration elsewhere in the economy, which experienced a 12% uplift as a whole last year. Stripping out the financial sector, the bonuses paid to employees in the rest of the economy in 2011/12 were almost as high as bonus payments in 2007/08, the heyday of bonus culture.
If finance doesn't float your boat but you're still after a hefty bonus, you could do worse than get into the mining and quarrying industry (this includes oil extraction and exploration), which yielded the second highest bonuses of any sector last year. The average employee was paid £6,900 on top of their basic wage, an increase of 9% compared with 2010/11. However, jobs in this field are pretty thin on the ground: the industry employs a very small proportion of the total workforce - just 0.2%.
Bonus hunters might have better luck in the UK economy's third-largest bonus generator. The wholesale trade industry paid out £0.4bn in bonuses between 2010/11 and 2011/12. Real estate follows close behind, handing out £0.3bn, which is on a par with the administrative and support services sector, also contributing £0.3bn.
But if you value your bonus over your basic, avoid the public sector. In 2011/12, the average private sector worker received more than five times the average public sector worker’s bonus of £300 (including nationalised banks). However, public sector pay packages are usually weighted far more heavily in four of the standard salary over the bonus, so don't make the leap to civil service quite yet....