Intern Found Dead After Working Ridiculous Hours

Intern Found Dead After Working Ridiculous Hours

I was horrified to read the recent story regarding the death of Moritz Erhardt. Moritz a 21-year-old German student who had been working on a summer internship with the investment bank Merill Lynch.
On 15 August the body of Moritz was found by a housemate in his shower. At the time of publication his cause of death is unknown but it is believed he may have suffered a fit or seizure. It has been disclosed that Moritz was working punishing hours over the course of his seven week internship.
Many banks are known to encourage their interns to work late into the night and as with any internship students believe that they have to do whatever is necessary to impress which could lead to a job offer at the end of their studies. However the story is a cautionary tale for anybody looking to get into investment banking.
It is claimed that a contributory factor in his death were the regular “all-nighters” that Moritz was working. A source has claimed that after working three consecutive all nighters Moritz didn’t turn up to work and colleagues went to find him. It was then thought to be that his body was found.
In light of his death a number of unnamed colleagues have come forward from Merrill Lynch and given incredible accounts about the culture of the firm and the amount of hours that interns are expected to work. One source said about Moritz “it is absolutely true – he was found dead in the shower by his flatmate. He was an intern at Merrill Lynch that went home at 6am three days in a row”.
In recent years there have been multiple stories of the hours that interns are expected to work at investment banks. One intern told the Evening Standard in 2011 that “you work how ever many hours you are asked to do”. He added “every intern’s worst nightmare is what’s called the ‘Magic Roundabout’ – this is when you get a taxi to drive you home at 7am and then it waits for you while you shower and change and then takes you back to the office”. Another unnamed source said “about 100 hours a week was the minimum and the average was probably 110 hours. I work 6 ½ days a week".
From an employment law perspective I am assuming that Merrill Lynch ask all of their interns to opt out of their obligations under the Working Time Regulations (WTR). Under the WTR if you are to work more than 48 hours in a week you must opt out. You are under no obligation to opt out but obviously this can affect your prospect of being offered any job or internship. I actually have a lot of sympathy with interns that find themselves in a similar boat. Given the current tough economic climate students feel they must do what is asked of them in order to get a job but as this story highlights this can sometimes be detrimental to your health. In any event if interns are being asked to work over 100 hours a week this should make them question whether they are wanting to go into an industry where that could be the norm.
If you are being asked to work excessive hours or would like some information about your rights and obligations under the WTR then please feel free to contact our specialist employment team who will be happy to give you some advice based on your personal circumstances.
Written by Ian Abel

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