The union representing thousands of British Airways staff says it has reached an agreement with the airline over how workers will be protected during the coronavirus crisis.

Earlier on Thursday it emerged around 36,000 BA staff were set to be furloughed. They include cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and those working at its head office near Heathrow.

Unite union said the deal would see BA introduce a “modified version” of the government’s Job Retention Scheme, so that workers will be furloughed on 80% of pay but with no cap on earnings.

The government scheme pays out a maximum of £2,500 per month, per employee.

There will be no redundancies or unpaid temporary lay offs during this period and the redundancy process that had already begun has been halted.

Workers will also be able to transfer between 9-18% of pension contributions to their pay for a short period of time.

Unite national officer for aviation, Oliver Richardson, said: “Given the incredibly difficult circumstances that the entire aviation sector is facing this is as good a deal as possible for our members.

“The deal protects the jobs of BA staff and, as far as possible, also protects their pay.

“This is what can and should be done to protect workers during this unprecedented time for the airline sector.”

The deal will now be circulated to Unite’s members at BA for their final approval.