Overworked and underpaid? Save it - no one wants to know

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A new survey says accountants are working even longer hours. But only a few dare complain in the City.

The survey, by recruiters Andrew Farr Associates, found that two thirds of accountants work the equivalent of nearly 50 days of unpaid overtime each year. In investment banking, headcount budget cutbacks mean everyone's being squeezed just a little bit more. One recruiter recently met an accountant who'd been hospitalised for exhaustion due to long hours.

But anxious times mean few are prepared to pipe up. Zachary Meade of FSS says, "I haven't heard too many candidates complaining; in fact, they aren't even mentioning work-life balance much any more at interview - the emphasis has shifted to job security. They'll put the hours in."

Laura Kirk of WH Marks Sattin says, "Accountants in banking understand that long hours are par for the course, but the reason they make that sacrifice is for the money. With fears that bonuses will be down this year, some are questioning why they work those hours - however, they'd never say it at an employer interview - and we wouldn't advise them to."

In fact, greater commitment is asked for. "Banks don't want to hear about work-life balance," says Meade. "Everyone's in crunch mode, trying to get the market back up. Teams are trying to achieve more with fewer people."

It seems employers want candidates to be prepared for all hands on deck, he says: "The last thing they want is for people to make getting home on time their top priority."

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