Pay awards have started to increase amid a "new year bounce" in settlements, although fewer than one in four have matched inflation, according to a report.

A study of 115 recent deals by XpertHR showed a median rise of 2.4%, compared with a 2% figure recorded through most of last year.

Less than a quarter matched or exceeded RPI inflation, currently 2.8%, while one in eight agreements involved a pay freeze.

Sheila Attwood of XpertHR said: "Employees will be looking for a sustained increase in pay awards after several years of no, or low, increases, but many employers are likely to still be waiting for signs of sustained economic growth.

"Although the outlook is for higher pay awards in 2014 than in 2013, below RPI inflation increases are a distinct possibility for many employees."