Brexit pressure is starting to grow on small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) here, new research has found, with two out of every five saying they are concerned about the issue.

According to the latest InterTradeIreland Business Monitor covering the fourth quarter of last year, rising costs are also a worry for a third of Irish SMEs.

As the economy approaches full employment, attracting and recruiting the right employees remains an ongoing problem for smaller firms with more than ten staff, with one in every five saying it is a struggle.

Brexit uncertainty appears to be having a dampening effect on investment, with just 14% planning to put new money into plant or equipment.

The picture is even more concerning when it comes to R&D spending, with only 4% aiming to spend on development of new products and services.

The paralysis is particularly acute for those trading cross-border, with just over a third saying they saw their business grow in the final three months of the year.

That is down from 52% in the same period one year earlier.

However, companies that don't trade across the border said their sales had grown slightly during the period.

Meanwhile, the Government is urging businesses to take concrete steps to avoid any disruption that might be caused by Brexit to the day-to-day running of their enterprises.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys said whether a business is a construction company, local beauty salon, bakery or even an Irish base of a multinational medical device company, it is crucial that they check their supply chains for vulnerabilities to the impact of Brexit.

The Government is advising businesses to avail or a range of financial supports and advice available through InterTradeIreland, Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland.

InterTradeIreland offers financial support of up to €2,250 which businesses can use for professional advice on specific Brexit issues such as supply chains and currency management.

Ms Humphreys said: "If a business hasn't already done so, there are a number of steps they need to take. Firstly, they should make contact with their UK suppliers, service providers, logistics companies, wholesalers or distributors, to seek assurances about the continuity of the goods and services they rely on to do business.

"Next they should check to see if their suppliers use the UK as a landbridge to move their goods. If they do, this might cause delays and increased costs after Brexit.

"If they have any doubts about continuity in their supply chains, they should contact their Local Enterprise Office who can point them in the right direction to avail of Government supports and advice."