The actors’ union Equity says it has reached a pay deal for soap stars unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Production on continuing dramas including Holby, Casualty, EastEnders, Doctors, Coronation Street, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks has shut down amid the health crisis.

Equity, the union which represents workers across the UK entertainment industry, said it has reached a deal to ensure regular cast members under contract on affected programmes receive a monthly payment while filming is suspended.

The payments “either meet or come very close to the benchmark set by the Government,” in its schemes for employed and self-employed workers, Equity said.

It added: “We pushed very hard for more, but felt these were the best that could be achieved in light of the difficult economic climate.”

Negotiations had been “intense and complex”, according to Equity, describing the outbreak as “unprecedented”.

The union stressed many workers on different productions “are not paid significant sums”.

John Barclay, head of recorded media at Equity, said: “By securing financial protection for artists now, we go some way towards safeguarding a vibrant future for the industry when this crisis is behind us and production can resume.

“I want to give a huge thank you to the Equity deps (deputies) on the shows and Equity staff for their hard work and resilience during this challenging time.”