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A happier (and less rounded) workforce;FE Focus

Staff at Hopwood Hall College have less excuse for being overweight or failing to keep up to date with information technology as a result of benefit deals offered by their employer.

A year's membership at the Bobby Charlton Fitness Centre, which shares a site with the Manchester further education college, normally costs pound;240. But the college's 650 lecturers and support staff can use the centre's facilities, including a multi-gym and steam room, for pound;145 per year - a discount of 40 per cent. Children of college employees also receive one-third off if they attend a summer camp at the centre.

College principal Ray Dowd said there had been a reasonable take-up of cut-price memberships among staff. Some use the bar at the fitness centre to socialise at lunchtime.

"We want to create an environment where people enjoy coming to work," he said.

Hopwood Hall has also negotiated discounts for its employees at council leisure centres and offers interest-free loans of up to pound;2,000 for staff wishing to buy personal computers. "It means we benefit as well as our employees because they may use the computer to do college work."

Eighteen months ago the college introduced a 24-hour helpline where staff receive stress counselling, including advice on personal problems such as drug or alcohol dependency. Although the college has not carried out an in-depth survey, Mr Dowd estimates that about 10 per cent of employees have called the helpline at least once.

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