Nearly half of small business employees in Canada would choose health benefits over a pay raise, according to a recent study.

The survey of small business owners and workers published by Blue Cross on Wednesday found that when offered a raise or a health benefits plan, 49 per cent of surveyed employees would choose benefits.

Over a third of the employees surveyed said they would choose a health benefits plan over a $40,000 raise, suggesting that health security is top-of-mind for many workers.

“Despite the financial challenges Canadians have faced this year, health remains a top priority,” said Tim Bishop, Managing Director of Blue Cross of Canada, in a press release on the study’s findings.

“These findings were unexpected during times of high inflation and reinforce the inherent value Canadians place on health benefits.”

The study defined a small business as having fewer than 100 employees. It found that 39 per cent of small businesses that don’t offer health benefits considered cost the primary barrier – but it also found that benefit plans cost employers less than $2,000 on average annually per worker, and offer significant return on investment.

The study’s findings suggest that employees value health benefits at a rate much higher than it costs for employers to offer them. Forty-one per cent of employees surveyed said they’d choose health benefits over a $25,000 raise, and half said they would choose benefits over a $10,000 raise.


Blue Cross’ study found that the vast majority (or 80 per cent) of workers consider whether a company offers health benefits before accepting a new role, and 73 per cent of employees who already have health benefits said they’d stay with their current employer even if offered more money elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the study found that 76 per cent of employees without health benefits would leave their current job in favour of one that did offer a benefits plan.

“To remain competitive in an ever-evolving employment landscape, small businesses must deliver value to retain team members,” said Bishop.

“More than half of employees feel underappreciated in the workplace and nearly one-quarter are actively searching for other job opportunities. Providing benefits can help mitigate quiet quitting and keep employees satisfied and engaged at work.”


Most Canadian small businesses, or 72 per cent, already offer health benefits to their employees, the study found. Ninety-one per cent of employees surveyed said they value their benefits plan’s impact on their overall health and wellbeing.

Eighty-nine per cent of small business employees said their benefits plan was important to their financial health and security, and “peace of mind” was cited as the top reason why employees appreciated their health benefits.

“As inflation and affordability concerns remain top of mind, Canadians are seeking stability and security,” added Bishop. “Offering health benefits can foster a healthier, more engaged workforce and provide employees with the reassurance that their health and the health of their loved ones is covered.”


The 2023 Blue Cross Small Business Benefits Study, conducted by independent research company Research + Knowledge = Insight, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,086 small business decision-makers and employees to compare views between those with and without health benefit plans, with a margin of error of +/-2 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Within this study, a small business is defined as having less than 100 employees, as aligned with the definition from Statistics Canada.