Kim Stacey said as a small business owner, minimum wage increases can be difficult to absorb. (CBC)

The minimum wage in Nova Scotia is rising by 15 cents to $10.15 an hour, effective April 1.

The minimum wage for a worker with less than three months' experience in the work they were hired to do is also going up to $9.65 from $9.50 an hour.

The increase will make Nova Scotia the province with the second highest minimum wage in the country, behind Ontario.

Kim Stacey, the owner of Emma's Eatery in Eastern Passage, said as a small business owner the increases can be difficult to absorb.

"Under normal circumstances, 15 cents wouldn't probably be too big of a deal except that we've had consistent and numerous increases over the last few years," she told CBC News.

"For a small business and particularly one with a smaller volume or that has maybe started up just recently, that can actually hit very, very hard."

Stacey said when her cafe opened in 2007, minimum wage was $7.65.

"To go up to $10.15 in just under five years is quite dramatic as far as I'm concerned," she said.

John Keiser, the owner of Valufoods in Eastern Passage, said in a faltering economy, the increase could mean life or death for some struggling businesses.

"In my case, no. But in some cases it could be," he said.

"We're in the doldrums of winter. Retail food service slows down — in some cases dramatically — so it's probably not a good time for wage increases to be passed on."

Labour Minister Marilyn More said the minimum wage must keep up with increases in the cost of living.

"We certainly empathize with small businesspeople who are concerned about any increase in their operating costs," she said Wednesday.

"At the same time, we have to be fair to the people who are earning the least amount of money in this province."

The government said fixing the minimum wage to the consumer price index was recommended by a minimum wage review committee made up of representatives from employers and employees.

The rate was last set in October and future increases will occur every April based on increases in the CPI from the previous year.

With files from The Canadian Press