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.

Yavinka Mendis, a University of Manchester economics graduate, joined KPMG’s Manchester office as an audit associate in 2019. He worked there for just over a year, auditing investment banks among other things, before leaving and spending four months working for Domino’s Pizza while looking for other roles. Mendis eventually found one at Grant Thornton, where he spent nine months as an audit associate in the public sector assurance at the Manchester office before leaving to work in Spain. 

Mendis says he left Grant Thornton because he was burnt out. A letter he received from the firm nearly 12 months after he left, published to his LinkedIn account, helps explain why: after looking back through its timesheet data and considering his Mendi’s ‘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. Mendis 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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