Employers in Northern Ireland are being disadvantaged by outdated employment laws which lag behind the rest of the UK and the Republic, business organisation CBI has said.
It said the collective redundancy consultation period – the period which employers planning to make 100 or more redundancies must by law set aside to consult with unions in an effort to minimise the impact to employees – is now twice as long as in Great Britain and three times as long as in the Republic.
It follows last month's vote by Westminster MPs to cut the consultation period to 45 days from 90 days previously in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland, from April 6.
"Unfortunately Northern Ireland continues to lag behind modern reform of employment law," CBI Northern Ireland assistant director, Kirsty McManus said.
"Our members have raised serious concerns that this deviation in Northern Ireland employment law is creating an additional cost burden to ensure compliance with two separate NI and GB employment law systems.
"We call on the Executive to urgently address this gap in competitiveness for Northern Ireland Businesses"
Employment law specialist Maxine Orr from Worthingtons Solicitors, who advises employers on redundancy issues, agreed with the CBI assessment.
"This is a welcome development for employers in Great Britain and that businesses in Northern Ireland would benefit from a comparable reduction in this jurisdiction," he said.
However, union leaders felt the current law is justified.
"If workers are to be made redundant it's appropriate that an appropriation consultation period is in place," Brian Campfield, general secretary of Nipsa and vice-chair of the NI committee of the ICTU, said.
"The current regulations make sense and any detrimental change to that can only be bad thing," Mr Campbell added.