Call centre staff at Services Australia are alleging tough bathroom break restrictions handed down by management are being policed so heavily, many are resorting to skipping toilet trips during shifts altogether.
Complaints have been levelled at management for restricting the movements of front-line staff within the social security and welfare agency to "screen-based breaks" .
It's alleged staff within the agency had been told breaks should be restricted to a maximum of five minutes each hour and not within an hour of a lunch break or meeting.
It's also alleged staff were verbally told if toilet trips can't be restricted to five minutes, they shouldn't be taken at all.
Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen didn't deny the allegations but said the agency allowed staff to leave workstations for refreshments and toilet breaks.
"Our call centre staff can take breaks during their shifts, which they can access at any time to get a drink or use the bathroom," Mr Jongen said.
"This is in addition to scheduled morning and afternoon tea breaks, and lunch breaks.
"While we can't comment specifically on any individual complaints, we encourage all staff to speak with their supervisor if they have any concerns."
Call centre staff are offered two 15-minute breaks - one in the morning and one afternoon - as well as an unpaid lunch break of at least half an hour.
A survey conducted in October last year by the main public sector union found nearly a quarter of respondents within the agency had experienced intrusive questions about toilet breaks taken.
Community and Public Sector union president Alistair Waters said the toilet break restrictions had been a unfortunate result of micromanagement.
He said the union was concerned over the added stress the heavy-handed bathroom break policing could bring.
"Micromanagement is a consistent and widespread issue in Services Australia. This invasive overreach from management must stop," Mr Waters said.
"While actions like this are poor practice and bad management and must stop, they also illustrate the chronic understaffing and overwork and the pressure on staff and middle managers.
"This pressure on everyone only increases with surge workloads due to disaster and emergency responses."
Federal budget papers published in May revealed Services Australia would lose 800 staff next year.
The union warned this additional pressure could result in overworked staff, especially with further lockdowns occurring in Melbourne in recent weeks.
"It is clear that Services Australia middle management have an inordinate amount of pressure to deliver services to the Australia public with not enough staff," Mr Waters said.
"Both workers and communities need and deserve more permanent staff at Services Australia."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: