Eight in 10 (80 per cent) small- and medium-sized employers in Eastern Canada say they don’t provide employee benefits, according to a new survey for Medavie Blue Cross by Abacus Data.

The survey, which polled SMEs and SME workers in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada, found a third (35 per cent) of SMEs that don’t offer benefits are at least somewhat interested in offering them in the future.

Read: Survey finds SMEs using benefits to attract, retain employees

Nearly all (95 per cent) SME workers said benefits are important to them and 72 per cent of those who don’t currently have workplace benefits said they’d leave their job for one that offers a health benefits package. And more than a quarter (27 per cent) of SMEs said employee recruitment or retention is a main challenge they face today.

Beyond dental, drug and vision coverage, the most important benefits cited by SMEs were hospital coverage (77 per cent), critical illness insurance (74 per cent), diagnostic tests (73 per cent) and long-term disability (72 per cent).

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