Budget 2015: Introducing national living wage 'will hurt firms in NI'
The introduction of a compulsory national living wage will "disproportionately impact" Northern Ireland firms, the business community has warned.
Chancellor George Osborne's Budget saw changes announced which will see workers over 25 earn no less than £7.20 next year, before rising to £9 in 2020.
Business leaders have criticised the sharp increase in the level from the current minimum wage, which is £6.50 for adults, and the impact that could have on firms here.
To offset the impact on businesses, the Chancellor announced a reduction in the rate of corporation tax and an increase in the annual employment allowance from £2,000 to £3,000 for small businesses.
CBI Northern Ireland director Nigel Smyth said: "The introduction of a national living wage next April, some 7% higher than the national minimum wage will be in October, will be a concern to many businesses, and will impact on job creation. Northern Ireland will be disproportionately impacted."
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association chief executive Glyn Roberts said it will hurt retailers: "The introduction of a compulsory 'living wage' will have a devastating impact on independent retailers in Northern Ireland. This will lead to retailers having to reduce staff hours, work more hours in their business and cancel investment."
He added the increase in the annual employment allowance will not off-set the impact.
Ulster Bank chief economist Richard Ramsey said this could reduce strain on the high rate of youth unemployment here.
"This measure will make under-25s more cost-competitive from an employer's perspective which could help alleviate Northern Ireland's high youth unemployment rate."
But the Irish Congress of Trade Unions' Peter Bunting said it was not enough: "This is an increase of 50p above the minimum wage, and is 65p short of the rate calculated by the living wage campaign for 2015."