Call centre workers in Norway are protesting against a high-tech surveillance system that triggers an alarm if they spend more than eight minutes per day in the toilet.

Managers are alerted by flashing lights if an employee is away from their desk for a loo break or other ‘personal activities’ beyond the allotted time.

But unions and workplace inspectors have branded the practice at insurance company DNB as ‘highly intrusive’ and a potential breach of human rights.

Norway’s privacy regulator has now written to DNB telling them the monitoring system is ‘a major violation of 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 employees union said: “Surveying staff to limit toilet visits, cigarette breaks, personal phone calls and other other personal needs to a total of eight minutes per day is highly restrictive and intrusive and must be stopped.”

The firm said the aim of the checks was not to measure the breaks taken by individual workers but to assess staffing needs to ensure all calls from customers were answered and it would now be reviewing the policy.

It is the latest example of toilet rules becoming ever more apparent in Norwegian companies.

In 2011 the country’s workplace ombudsman said a business was reported for making female workers wear a red bracelet when they were having their period to indicate they may be indulging in more regular toilet trips.

Another company required staff sign a toilet ‘visitors book’.