Barack Obama
President Barack Obama is to take a 5 percent pay cut in a gesture of solidarity with government workers.

President Barack Obama is preparing to take a self-imposed 5 percent pay cut as a gesture of solidarity with US federal workers affected by government-wide spending cuts.

The American leader, who earns $400,000 (£265,000) a year will return $20,000 to the Treasury backdated to 1 March, when the spending cuts began. The cuts are expected to last until the end of December.

Hundreds of thousands of government workers across the US must take unpaid leave to reduce the federal wage bill.

Defence and non-defence discretionary spending has shrunk across the board to address the country's debt.

An administration official confirmed that Obama had opted for the pay cut in his own salary in an effort to make the reductions more palatable to ordinary workers.

"The president has decided that to share in the sacrifice being made by public servants across the federal government that are affected by the sequester he will contribute a portion of his salary," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The hmove cames after defence secretary Chuck Hagel committed himself to returning part of his salary equal in percentage terms to what other Defence Department staff will take. He will give back $10,750.

The $85bn in overall cuts were brought in when Democratics and Republicans reached an impasse over the budget deficit.

During John F Kennedy's tenure in office he reportedly donated his presidential salary to various charities in a bid to lead by example.