Ernst and Young employee, 33, found dead at Sydney office after Friday night work drinks

A young female Ernst & Young employee was found dead at the accounting firm’s Sydney office just hours after attending an event held by the company’s social club on Friday night.

The 33-year-old spent the afternoon at The Ivy – a popular bar and club in Sydney’s CBD – before she returned to EY’s George Street offices, a mere 450m away.

The Australian exclusively revealed the employee arrived at the social event at around 5.30pm on Friday, before returning to the office at around 7.30pm to finish some work.

Her body was later discovered by colleagues on Saturday morning, after midnight.

The publication stated that while she was escorted out of the The Ivy due to intoxication, security footage reviewed by investigators did not show her visibly inebriated upon returning to the office.

As it stands, the 33-year-old’s role and name has not been disclosed.

NSW Police are now preparing a report for the coroner and believe her death was the result of self harm.

EY is regarded as one of Australia’s top four accounting firms, along with Deloitte, KPMG and PwC.

Currently firms are underway with their peak auditing season which typically last from July through to September.

During this busy period, Australia’s biggest companies must lodge their Annual Reports by September 30, which are prepared by firms like EY. This can result in lengthy work hours and dramatically increased workloads.

During a 2019 to 2020 parliamentary inquiry into audit quality, the director of a professional services recruitment firm Robert Walters said employees can work up to “50 to 60 hours minimum a week” during busy periods, the Australian Financial Review reports.

However, Sinead Hourigan said that “busy period is becoming the new normal”.

Macquarie University accounting professor James Guthrie also said big four companies had a “flawed organisational culture,” where junior employees commonly faced intense time pressures and worked long hours unsupervised.

In 2021, EY’s Hong Kong branch faced criticisms after a leaked email showed a manager demanding staff to work on weekends and up till 11.30pm on weeknights.

“Staff must start work by 9.30am and finish no earlier than 11.30pm,” the email read.

“I think midnight is common in peak seasons – it counts on the discipline and responsibility of yourself.

“For weekends, I expect at least one day we are spending the whole day (from 10.00am-7.30pm) in office.”

In a comment to The Australian, EY’s Oceania CEO David Larocca said contact had been made with the deceased’s family and the firm is assisting police with their ongoing investigations. Counselling has also been offered to all staff.

The company will also be undertaking a “comprehensive and wide-ranging internal ­review encompassing health and safety, security, social events”.

“Our chief mental health ­officer will be part of an ongoing review and has been instrumental over the weekend in providing ­ongoing advice and guidance,” he said.

Do you know more? Email Jessica.wang@news.com.au

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