Staff get eight minutes for toilet breaks: union

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Photo: Maxim Lachmann
11:06 CET+01:00
Norway’s privacy watchdog has reprimanded financial services giant DNB for keeping strict tabs on the time taken by its employees for toilet visits and other private tasks.

At subsidiary DNB Liv, the firm’s life insurance arm, a specially designed computer system monitors the speed at which customer service employees work, and checks to ensure they don’t take too many breaks, newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reports.

Staff at the company are restricted to eight minutes a day for private activities that include trips to the toilet, smoking breaks, private phone calls, and newspaper reading, according to finance sector trade union Finansforbundet.

Norway’s main privacy regulator, the Data Inspectorate (Datatilsynet), began looking into the matter after employee representatives at the firm contacted the union. Finansforbundet was strongly critical of the tight surveillance, noting that each individual worker has different needs.

The Data Inspectorate described DNB Liv’s monitoring as “a major violation of privacy”.

“It’s not permitted to collect more detailed personal information than necessary to achieve the specified goal. These kinds of strict controls deprive the employees of all freedoms over the course of their working day,” Hågen Ljøgodt, a senior advisor at the Data Inspectorate, told Dagens Næringsliv.

DNB Liv’s administrative director, Tom Rathke, countered by saying that the aim of the checks was not to measure the breaks taken by individual workers but rather to assess staffing needs by monitoring a team over a longer period.

Rathke also claimed that the trade union’s figure of eight minutes was incorrect.

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“What actually happens when we measure is that we set aside eight percent of the scheduled time for ‘rest and relaxation’,” he told the newspaper.

The company did concede however that some team leaders had used the results to measure the performance of individual employees.

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