National Living Wage 'challenge to Northern Ireland small firms'
A significant challenge will be posed to small businesses by the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW), the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has said.
The £7.20 hourly rate becomes law on Friday. Across the UK 1.3m workers over 25 are set to benefit immediately.
"Not only do they have to afford the living wage, but they also have to pay for auto-enrolment," Glyn Roberts said.
"And many of them have experienced quite a big hike in business rates."
"So a lot of small businesses are experiencing almost a perfect storm of high cost issues," Mr Roberts, NIIRTA's chief executive, said.
"But there is a particular concern that auto-enrolment pensions and the living wage could put their wages bill up by over 50% by 2020."
Meanwhile, trade unionists have expressed anger that the NLW will not be paid to young people.
The chair of the trade union Unite's regional youth committee is calling for a £10 an hour minimum wage across the board.
"All the evidence shows that increasing the minimum wage boosts the economy, as workers have more money in their pocket to spend in local businesses," Unite's Neil Moore said.
"We need a £10 per hour minimum wage.
"But it won't be handed to us from above by benevolent politicians.
"We will have to follow the example of low-paid workers in the US fighting for a $15 an hour minimum wage, who are winning victories in city after city through grassroots organisation."