Warning: Contains distressing content.
The death of an Ernst and Young (EY) employee in New South Wales, Sydney, has triggered conflicting accounts as to exactly what occurred in the hours before the tragedy.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, the body of a 27-year-old woman (previously reported to be 33) was found at the financial service firm’s Sydney CBD offices. Police are not investigating her death as suspicious and believe self-harm was involved.
However, the events of the night and the hours before the incident are still murky and inconsistent between investigations conducted by NSW Police and the financial services firm.
Five-hour missing window
On Wednesday, communication from EY stated that “initial investigations indicate she left the EY building at around 7.30pm and returned after midnight”.
However, news.com.au understands these comments were made separate from the official police investigation.
According to The Australian, police are “unequivocal” that the woman returned to the office between 7pm and 7.30pm, with CCTV and witnesses confirming her attendance. At 8pm she was on a call with her husband who flew into Sydney from Singapore later that night, when he learned of her death.
The publication also reports she left the office about noon on Friday before attending a function organised by EY’s social committee held at The Ivy.
Where both accounts converge is the fact that emergency services were called to EY’s Sydney CBD’s offices about 12.20am early Saturday morning following a concern for welfare report. There, they found the body of the 27-year-old.
News.com.au has contacted EY for comment, however they did not respond at the time of publishing.
The woman attended a work social function at The Ivy before returning to the offices.
EY ‘aren’t addressing it at all’, staff say
Since Saturday morning, staff at EY have complained of being left in the lurch.
News.com.au understands that since Saturday morning’s tragedy, staff have only received one email which stated that a team member had died at the Sydney building over the weekend.
During a pre-scheduled firmwide meeting on Wednesday, employees say the woman’s death was not addressed.
“They brushed over the incident at the start of the call and then went on to talk about the EY demerger for the remaining 50 minutes,” one employee told the anonymous social media page, Aussie Corporate.
Another current staffer said: “There’s a black cloud looming over us at EY and it has been so odd because people are skirting around the event. They’re either saying ‘it’s so sad’, or just aren’t addressing it at all.”
News.com.au understands that even financial auditors at the Sydney office are unaware of the identity of the woman.
On Reddit, one Sydney employee said they were shocked no flowers had been left at the building.
“I do care deeply that I walked into the office this week and not even a single bunch of flowers acknowledged the deeply tragic events of the weekend,” wrote one Reddit user.
In a statement to news.com.au, CEO and regional managing partner David Larocca confirmed that a 24/7 Employment Assistance Programme has been offered to all staff and families, with onsite counselling services also available.
Inside dark work culture where 27-year-old died
Since the employee’s death, current and former employees have told news.com.au of the culture of overwork which occurs in major financial services businesses, particularly among financial auditors. Ex-staff cited 70 to 80-hour work weeks, especially during peak periods from July to September.
These claims were consistent with those made by employees from other Big 4 accounting firms which include PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPMG and Deloitte.
One former auditor who’s worked at PwC and EY described the culture at the Big 4 firms as an “iron man contest”.
“You survive or leave,” he told news.com.au, on the basis of anonymity.
News.com.au is not suggesting the work culture at EY contributed to the employee’s death and the employee’s identity and role within the company has not been disclosed.
– Jessica Wang, news.com.au
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