The majority (80 per cent) of Canadian employees say they consider a small- and medium-sized employer’s health benefits before accepting a new role and 73 per cent of SME workers with a benefits plan say they’d stay with their current employer even if they were offered more money elsewhere, according to a new survey by Blue Cross of Canada.

The survey, which polled SMEs and SME employees from across Canada, also found 72 per cent of SMEs reported offering benefits to their employees.

Roughly half (49 per cent) of employees said they’d choose health benefits over a raise. Among these employees, another half (50 per cent) said they’d rather have health benefits than a $10,000 raise, 41 per cent said they’d take health benefits over a $25,000 raise and 36 per cent said they’d take benefits over a $40,000 raise.

Read: SME workers say paid time off, flexible schedules most important benefits: survey

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of employee respondents without health benefits said they’d leave their current job in favour of one with a better benefits plan and one in eight SMEs said they’ve seen at least one employee resign for a better benefits plan.

While two-fifths (39 per cent) of SMEs cited cost as a key barrier to offering health benefits, the survey found the average cost is just $1,822 per employee annually and offers a notable return on investment across key performance indicators, including recruitment, retention and productivity.

The majority (91 per cent) of employees said they valued their benefits plan’s impact on their overall health and well-being, while 89 per cent said their benefits plan was important to their financial health and security. Employees cited peace of mind (37 per cent) as the No. 1 reason why they appreciate health benefits.

“To remain competitive in an ever-evolving employment landscape, small businesses must deliver value to retain team members,” said Tim Bishop, managing director of Blue Cross of Canada, in a press release. “More than half of employees feel underappreciated in the workplace and nearly a quarter are actively searching for other job opportunities. Providing benefits can help mitigate quiet quitting and keep employees satisfied and engaged at work.”

Read: Employer-sponsored health benefits costs projected to rise 7.5% in 2023: report