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Accounting firm apologises for paying trainee below minimum wage

If you can't get a graduate job in an investment bank, it may be tempting to apply for a graduate job at an accounting firm instead. One recent graduate's experience highlights why this may not be optimal.

A University of Manchester economics graduate, joined KPMG as an audit associate in four years ago. He worked there for just over a year, auditing investment banks. 

The ex-audit associate left Grant Thornton because he was burnt out by his personal life. However, work may not have helped. A letter he received from the firm nearly 12 months said he'd been underpaid. After looking back through its timesheet data and considering his 'flexible benefit choices,' Grant Thornton said it had realised that he'd earned less than the minimum wage for the time he'd spent there. It sent him £100 for the inconvenience and promised to make up the difference. 

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The UK minimum wage is currently £10.42 ($12.64) an hour. The says he wasn't aggrieved at his underpayment, and instead complimented Grant Thornton for its honesty. He didn't respond to a request to comment for this article.

A spokesperson for Grant Thornton LLP said it had reviewed its internal data and found that "a small number of our people were inadvertently paid under the National Minimum Wage threshold, owing to them having made significant salary sacrifice deductions via our flexible benefit choices and/or having worked longer hours during specific periods of the year." It added that no one there actually receives a salary below the minimum wage threshold. 

Grant Thornton is not the only accounting firm making use of graduate hires on very low hourly rates - PwC, KPMG, EY and Deloitte were recently fined by the Spanish government after graduate employees complained of earning €14k (£12k) a year while working 12-hour days six days a week. 

Graduate jobs in the Big Four are usually seen as more secure than those in banks. However, Big firms are cutting recent hires in an effort to cut costs. The FT reported last week that Deloitte, for example, is removing 150 first and second year analysts from its consulting division. 

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Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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