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Alarm system to monitor office employee’s toilet breaks deemed a violation of privacy

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A surveillance system which has been installed into a Norwegian office in order to limit employees to eight minutes of toilet time a day has been deemed a violation of privacy.

An alarm sounds if any of the staff at the call centre exceed their daily allowance of time away from their desks performing personal activities in the bathroom.

Managers are also made aware of the situation by flashing lights which are activated at the same time as the alarm.

There have been outcries from unions about the practice, as well as experts on workplace freedoms.

Finansforbundet, a Norwegian union which represents many of the workers has said that putting such rules in place is unacceptable.

Now the privacy regulator has spoken out about the surveillance system at the DNB offices, saying it is major violation of employees’ privacy.

It said: “Each individual worker has different needs and these kinds of strict controls deprive the employees of all freedoms over the course of their working day.”

The company has defended the measures as a way to make sure that all customer calls are met as quickly as possible, but has agreed to review the situation.

This is not the first example of staff in Norwegian offices having their toilet time monitored as in the past it has been reported that employees in the Scandinavian country have been told to sign a book when using the facilities.

Others have been issued with electronic key cards in order to allow the amount of time spent in the bathroom to be checked.

One company was even reported to have made female employees wear red bracelets to signify being on their periods in order to allow them more regular visits to the toilet, the workplace ombudsman found.

Bjorn Erik Thon, chief workplace ombudsman in Norway, said: “We receive many complaints about monitoring in the workplace, which is becoming a growing problem as it is so often being used for something other than what it was originally intended for.”

He said rules and regulations to do with the privacy of office workers would be reviewed in the coming year.

Some office staff use going to the bathroom as a way to get up from their desks, move around and rest their eyes, as recent research has found that many office staff forget to do so.