Thursday, 20 August 2009

Modern slavery, accounting style

Francine McKenna has posted about one of the Big 4 firms' policies of staff working hours as they move into their busiest season.

I'm absolutely appalled.

As Dennis Howlett says:
As I read through the (long) post, I couldn’t help but feeling increasingly sorry for those left to crank out those 50-hour BILLABLE weeks – as confirmed by many commenters – and the veiled threat for those who 'fail':

That veiled threat, as quoted by Francine (my emphasis added):

After considering the various legacy practices we have decided that during this period, each professional when assigned full-time to a client project is expected to work and charge 50-hour weeks. This is simply a consistent national implementation of what used to be multiple slightly different regional models with the objective of generating at least the same outcome on average across our practice this year as we have had in prior years. We realize that many of you will take some personal time off in Periods 7 and 8 and so our expectations for those weeks - typically 1 week in November and 1-2 weeks in December will be different.
If you schedule less than 50 hours a week your Talent Professional will contact you to understand your situation… begin consolidating your engagement resource needs as soon as possible taking the 50 hour week requirement into consideration
Yes, that does mean that staff at Deloitte are expected to consistently work an average of a 10-hour day.

That's terrible.

This shows why I never wanted to go into the Big 4. Despite the huge salaries and perks for staff, what good is a huge salary if you never have time to enjoy it, or when you do get time you're so brain-tired that all you want to do is sleep?

And that lays aside any consideration of whether the staff will produce anything like their best work under such conditions. When you're working that sort of long day (and let's not forget, that's 10 billable hours, not just 10 hours of being there of which 2 are admin), you'll be tired, you'll miss things, you'll make mistakes. What sort of service will that provide to clients?

I began my career in a blue-chip firm (not an accounting practice). I soon realised that working a 7-hour day was seen as skiving - and didn't last very long there. Because, quite simply, I wanted a life!

So I went to Cannon Moorcroft, a much smaller firm, run by friendly people, where the staff were looked after and treated like humans. My boss there caught me working late one evening on a non-urgent job, and shooed me off home.

When one of my colleagues went to join PwC, my mentor and I did our level best to dissuade her.

You can see why.


  1. I am amazed that you are shocked over 50 hrs,that is nothing...i worked on a restatement and another client where the typical workday was:

    Mon-Friday:8:30am-12pm=16hrs x
    Sat Sun:9am-6pm=

    This was NOT busy season....this was pretty much everyday for 3yrs!!!!!!

  2. Well Lee, to have done that for 3 years, you're either very brave or very daft... :-)

    Those working hours are criminally long. Hark back to the days of the Industrial Revolution and the cotton mills that never stopped turning.

    I'm amazed firms can get away with letting their staff work such long hours. It's ruinous for their health.


  3. "skiving" - I learned a new word today. Cool :)


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