Spain to extend coronavirus job protection measure until year-end -source

BARCELONA, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Spain plans to extend until the end of the year a measure preventing employers from using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to fire staff, a source with knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.

The government approved measures in March to prevent employers using COVID-19 as a reason to dismiss employees while the health crisis lasted.

Ministers are currently negotiating with unions and business groups to extend a furlough scheme, known as ERTE, beyond September when it was due to expire.

As part of these negotiations, the government is proposing to extend the ban on dismissing staff because of COVID-19 until year-end, the source said. Spanish media reports about the proposed extension gave a precise date - Dec. 31 - for the expiry of the measure.

Currently, there are about 800,000 workers in Spain who are on the furlough scheme, compared to 2.5 million when the government declared a state of emergency in March.

Spain reported 4,708 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours on Friday, bringing its cumulative total to 566,326 -- the highest in western Europe.

A government official declined to comment. (Reporting by Graham Keeley additional reporting Belen Carreno, Editing by William Maclean)