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John Lewis staff get fit

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The John Lewis Partnership is to launch a programme to encourage its 69,000 employees to improve their health by getting involved in sport.

The retailer, which owns John Lewis and Waitrose, will run the programme, Partners in Sport, from autumn this year to summer 2012 to coincide with the London Olympic Games. It means employees will have the opportunity to train to be sports coaches.

The firm hopes 1,000 members of staff can become sports coaches by the end of the scheme - initially in four sports and incorporating other disciplines as the scheme develops.

The John Lewis Partnership will also provide practical support to staff who wish to compete at national level or above in their chosen sport. This includes nutritional information, travel, accommodation and equipment.

Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: "Despite the tough trading environment on the high street we're announcing Partners in Sport because we believe it's an investment in our [employees'] health, skills and wellbeing for the long term."

The John Lewis Partnership already provides employees with £250 each year to develop a sport of their choice and the new initiative, in partnership with government-backed agency Sports Coach UK, will build upon this.

Minister for sport Gerry Sutcliffe added: "The health benefits are obvious but it can also foster team spirit and boost productivity in the workplace. This initiative will also help support some of our elite athletes in the run up to 2012 and I wish the John Lewis Partnership and Sports Coach UK much success with this programme."