The Pandemic Unemployment Payment is acting as a huge disincentive for some construction workers in returning to work, the association representing Irish plant contractors has said.

Latest figures from the Department of Social Protection show that more than 20,000 construction workers were still on the PUP despite the sector fully reopening in May.

The Irish Plant Contractors Association (IPCA) has written to the Government warning of difficulties ahead for the construction sector.

IPCA Chief Executive Brian Coogan said that some employers are facing real problems trying to get workers back to work.

"The PUP is an issue," he said. He said that construction has now been fully reopened for the last two months. "If your job is available it should really mean that the PUP payment ends for you and you return to work."

Figures from the Department of Social Protection show that 20,033 people in the construction sector were in receipt of the PUP up to last week. That figure is down from over 84,000 at its height in May of last year. But employers say they continue to have difficulties finding skilled workers.

Construction Contractor Eamonn McCafferty, Director of Site Control, said there is a massive shortage of skilled operative and staff. He said that they are losing out on contracts because they cannot get the workers.

In response, the SIPTU trade union representing workers across the construction industry said the issue is wider than just the PUP payment.

SIPTU Construction Sector Organiser John Regan said the industry needs to wake up and look at how they are going to incentivise workers back into construction.

It is not the PUP payment that is the problem, he said. He contends that it is guaranteed, permanent and continuous employment that is the issue.

The Construction Industry Federation said it has also made its concerns known to Government.

It said it welcomes the proposed staggered removal of the PUP as there is an abundance of activity in the pipeline for the coming decade.

The IPCA also said there is an ongoing labour shortage in the construction industry and said the gender balance among construction workers needs to be addressed.

9,600 women work in the construction industry, according to the Central Statistics Office, accounting for just over 7% of the workforce in that sector.

They are calling on the Government to help introduce a scheme to train up more women to work in the sector.