Only one in five 5 UK respondents to a global survey have income protection cover in the event of becoming too ill or disabled to work, according to research from Zurich.
This is despite the fact that as many as 42% reported income loss in their working lives due to serious illness.
Only 19% of respondents claim to have a good knowledge of income protection products, suggesting that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the product's benefits - that include access to rehabilitation as well as financial support.
Meanwhile over a quarter of respondents said they would be willing to spend 5% of their income on it though such cover can be bought for significantly less.
In the absence of cover, just under half of respondents (47%) expect to rely on savings should the worst happen.
Though just under a quarter (23%) also report having savings to last them just one month in such a scenario; while 21% say they have enough to last them up to three months.
Meanwhile, the UK welfare system faces austerity measures with expansion of the Government's Work Capability Assessment programme to review the eligibility of a further 1.5 million people already receiving Incapacity Benefit.
Unsurprisingly, over half (56%) of respondents' preference would be for the government to cover income loss in the event of illness, followed by their employer for 37%.
Nearly half (47%) of UK respondents also reported being willing to accept a better benefits package including income protection benefits rather than higher wages, suggesting a greater role for employers in helping to protect their employees financial wellbeing.
Gary Shaughnessy, Global Life, CEO, Zurich said: The income protection gap is a growing challenge, for individuals and their families and society as a whole. For a family, we know that the impact of the main breadwinner not being able to work through illness or disability can be devastating with financial hardship resulting in the loss of the family home for those worst hit.
"As we witness a shift in the burden of responsibility from the state to individuals, people need to take more responsibility to protect themselves and those they love. As an industry, we have a duty to continue raising awareness and help people mitigate this growing risk."