Official statistics show construction workers claimed grants totalling £966m in the last round of the scheme, which covered the period to September 15 2021.
This followed earlier claims of £3.1bn in the period to July 31 2020, £2.4bn in the period to October 31 2020, £2.3bn in the period to December 31 2020 and £2.2bn in the period to June 6 2021.
Ian Anfield, managing director of Hudson Contract said: “The industry only suffered a two-week lockdown in March 2020 and were it not for labour shortages and material supply blockages it would have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels fairly soon after.
"The scale of these payments, which amount to hundreds of millions of man hours, has to be a major factor as to why it has been so difficult to find skilled labour, and a far bigger factor than Brexit which only affects people who did not work here before 31 December 2020’’.
“With most adults double vaccinated and virus transmission on building sites almost none existent, it is hard to justify why the claims were so high. Only a relatively small number of clinically vulnerable people or those confirmed as having the virus should have been funded to stay away.’’
Mr Anfield added: “Our clients have told us that lots of EU nationals returned to their homes oversees whilst being open about that fact that they would be making claims from the UK scheme. They now tell us that because the scheme has ended they are planning on coming back.’’
To date £27.7bn has been paid in SEISS grants in total with construction workers the biggest recipients and bizarrely the transportation and storage sector next.