The Co-operative Group has launched what it says is the largest private sector flu vaccine scheme ever seen in Europe.

The mutual is offering free jabs to more than 100,000 staff, including 70,000 staff within its food business. Jabs are available at 42 workplace clinics and more than 400 of its pharmacies.

The society said it would save at least £1m a year in absenteeism and sick pay if three-quarters of its staff took up the offer of a free flu jab.

“The UK economy requires help to boost growth and output and our initiative is the kind of shot in the arm it needs,” said group chief executive Peter Marks.

“Reducing the costs and impact on business efficiency from workplace absenteeism is particularly important in these difficult economic times. Our leading approach to offer flu vaccinations to our staff makes business sense while improving the welfare of our employees.”

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