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Leaked email suggests Big Four employees work longer hours than bankers

If you work for a Big Four professional services firm you'll earn a lot less money than if you work in the front office of an investment bank. That's fair: the deal is that you're supposed to work shorter hours at the Big Four. However, this deal may not apply at busy times of year, when multiple clients want their audits signed-off.

A leaked email sent on Tuesday January 5th by a manager in the assurance team at EY in Hong Kong claims that normal working hours at this time of year ("peak season") are 9.30am to 11.30pm at the very least. "I think midnight is common in peak seasons – it counts on the discipline and responsibility of yourself," said the manager, adding that his team should also expect to spend one entire weekend day (10am to 7.30pm) in the office, plus another half day working from home. 

Team members can, however, stop at 7.30pm on Fridays and have the evening off, said the manager in a gesture of generosity. In these circumstances "it shall be fine" to have dinner with family and friends, he added.

The EY email is redolent of the email sent by a VP at PJT Partners in May, asking why team members weren't working at 3am. Last time we looked, that VP was still employed by PJT.

EY isn't backing up its manager, who also appears to have sent a lot of other messages requesting that Skype messages are responded to within one minute and staff don't turn their phones off. A spokesperson for EY in Hong Kong said: "We are aware of an internal email sent by a senior manager in Hong Kong to his immediate team regarding his personal expectations on their working hours. The expectations and sentiment expressed in the email do not accord with EY values and we are looking into this matter thoroughly."

The spokesperson added: "The well-being of our people is incredibly important. We have flexible work arrangements in place, as we put our trust in our people to manage both their work and personal commitments. Our leadership and talent teams are offering support and counselling to those involved in this matter."

This is not the first time that people at the Big Four have complained about their working hours. In 2015, accountant 'Stu in Tokyo' complained that he was working from 9.30am to 11.30pm every day. 

"Audit is the worst job in the Big Four," one ex-audit associate who worked for one of the Big Four in London told us in 2019. "It's also the worst job I've ever had. - The hours are long, the pay is low and it's extremely boring. The work's very process-driven. We call it, 'ticking and bashing' which basically means admin work where you tick boxes confirming that you've followed a process."

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Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor
  • Ka
    31 January 2023

    Well, All big fours and companies in 5th or 6th position does the same. PwC, EY deloitte , kpmg , moss Adams or *Grant Thornton. Tax personals suffer because of long hours and work hour budget. It affects work life balance. I dont know when they will get this but just delay the process ..ask for extension if you feel its bulky ..and don't force your employees.

    We work to enjoy our time with family. But in this job we sacrifice our family time our personal time. Countries like India should have some policies regarding these kinds of companies so that people should not get affected.

  • Da
    13 January 2021

    They really didn’t need a “leaked email” to figure this out, there are nearly 1 Million CURRENT Big 4 Employees not to mention millions of former employees, you could just have asked any of them, a leaked email wasn’t needed.

  • Bl
    13 January 2021

    I worked at EY before too. Best record was working for 24 hours. Went home for two hours at 7am the next day and then my boss called me to go to office. It’s Saturday by the way. Anddddd Getting off work at 11.30pm during peak period is considered decent hours 😂#Taxagentlifematterstoo

  • Va
    Valentin Shakhov
    12 January 2021


  • Mi
    Miffy Anon
    12 January 2021

    What can I say, EY is EY, reputation precedes them. No wonder they remain the underdog in the big 4, those are pretty generous hours for peak season. For where I used to work, at the leading of the pack, 9am to 3am is meeting expectation, 4:30am at peak times, the hours mentioned in the article only at off season.
    On the article itself, of course they earn wayyyyyyy less than bankers and slavery hours, in fact junior earns less than the minimum wages of hk, get your calculator out and do the maths, better off as a security guard... 😆

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