Red tape 'strangling Northern Ireland business'
Half of small businesses are reducing staff numbers due to red tape in Northern Ireland, lobbyists have warned.
Rates increases, the introduction of a national living wage and auto-enrolment pensions have been blamed for creating a "perfect storm".
Business leader Glyn Roberts said 91% of independent businesses saw costs rise in the last year, while three-quarters of retailers will reduce investment in their businesses to offset costs.
Mr Roberts said: "The perfect storm of cost issues including business rates increases, national living wage and auto-enrolment pensions is resulting in 67% of them reducing staff hours, 51% reducing staff numbers and 26% postponing or cancelling investment plans.
"A staggering 79% of members tell us that compliance with excessive regulation is the biggest challenge to their business.
"This is a major wake-up call to political leaders in Stormont and Westminster that things have to change."
Mr Roberts is chief executive of Retail NI, the new name for the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, and said the organisation's priority is to ensure the implementation of the new rates relief scheme.