More than 207,000 employees at Tesco are scooping share bonuses worth a total of £98m after the retailer's record annual results, it was revealed today.
Tesco said all staff - from checkout workers to store managers - who have worked with the supermarket giant for at least a year by the end of February are eligible for the free shares, offering 3.6 per cent of salary, up to a maximum of £3,000.
The "Shares in Success" windfall marks an 8 per cent rise on the previous year and comes after Tesco's annual profits broke through the £3bn barrier, setting a new record for British retailers.
There was also pay cheer for top bosses at Tesco, who picked up £21m in pay and bonuses in the last financial year, according to Tesco's annual report also released today.
Chief executive Sir Terry Leahy was paid £5.1m in salary and bonuses, although the payout was down slightly on the £5.5m seen the previous year, with pay packages reduced for many senior staff as Tesco reportedly missed internal targets despite the bumper profits haul.
Tesco confirmed senior staff packages were hit by performance at its fledgling US division, Fresh & Easy, where expansion has been hampered by the recession and a consumer spending slump.
Sir Terry and Tim Mason, head of the US arm, were awarded 45 per cent of the maximum possible under their bonus scheme, according to Tesco.
The group also experienced a tough year in its domestic market, with UK like-for-like sales up 3 per cent - a performance that lagged behind rivals such as Morrisons and Sainsbury's, which saw full-year sales rise 7.9 per cent and 4.5 per cent respectively.
Tesco's market share has fallen as recession-hit shoppers search around for the best deal.
The latest TNS Worldpanel data showed a 0.5 per cent fall year-on-year to 30.6 per cent over the Easter period.
But the more difficult conditions failed to derail overall growth, with underlying pre-tax profits reaching £3.13bn and worldwide sales hitting more than £1bn a week for the first time in the year to the end of February.
Tesco's shares scheme will allow both part-time and full-time staff to share the record-breaking performance.
Stock handed to staff under the bonus windfall will be held in trust for five years, after which time they can sell them tax-free.
A previous shares bonus scheme worth £37m also matured today, benefiting around 66,000 staff, Tesco confirmed.