Around 1,000 Bord Gáis employees are set to split a windfall of around €53.6m as a long-standing employee share ownership scheme is wound up.

The payouts will average just under €54,000, with the highest payments at €66,000. No payment will be lower than €17,000.

However, the payments will be restricted to staff who were employed by the company between 2005 and 2009, so more recent recruits will not receive any additional cash.

The amounts will also depend on the length of service of the individual involved.

The move is part of the process of restructuring Bord Gáis as it absorbs the operations of Irish Water and sells off its energy division.

The employee share ownership plan was established as part of a productivity deal agreed with unions, which sources said had delivered savings between 2005 and 2009 of €32m.

Through the ESOP, the staff in question own 3.27% of Bord Gáis, which is now valued at €53.6m.

It is understood that of the 1,001 members of the ESOP, around 750 still work with the company, while about 250 are now retired or working elsewhere, but retain their stake in the company.

The tax-free payments will be spread over the next five years.

Staff will vote on the proposals next week.