More than 4 million self-employed people do not have a back-up plan for if they were unable to work, despite their families being disproportionately reliant on their income.
The research from Scottish Widows found that just 7% of self-employed people have critical illness cover to protect them if they were unable to work.
Just 7% of the self-employed population have critical illness cover, compared with 9% of the general population.
With the self-employed population now rising to 4.79 million workers in the UK, or 15.1% of the workforce, this is the equivalent of 4.3 million workers having no protection in place if they were unable to work due to illness.
Two thirds (62%) of self-employed workers' households are reliant on one wage earner's income, compared with 52% of the average population.
When asked about the consequences of losing their main income, one in five (21%) self-employed people say they would not be financially secure at all and 12% don't know how long they would be able to pay their household bills if they or their partner were unable to work. Just under a third (30%) say they wouldn't be able to rely on a single income.
Although self-employed people have average savings of £31,442, which is £5,675 more than the general population, who have an average of £25,767, 15% don't know how long their savings would last if they were unable to work. For one in 10 (8%), it would be less than a month.
The research indicates that outgoings among self-employed workers are higher than average. Self-employed people pay £618 a month on mortgage payments on average, compared with £561 for the general population.
This group of workers are also more likely to spend more on rent, at £601 on average, compared with £475 for the general population. Self-employed people are also slightly more likely to have debts, with 36% having carried over non-mortgage debts each month over the past three months, higher than the 33% average.
Although a third (34%) of self-employed people have life insurance, compared with 32% of the general population, arranging financial protection for their family in case they die is not a priority.
Johnny Timpson, protection specialist at Scottish Widows, says "Given the continued rise in the number of people who are self-employed in the UK today, this research unveils a worryingly uncertain picture for a significant proportion of the UK's workforce.
"With so many families reliant on the income of self-employed people, it is absolutely vital that they have a back-up plan in place should the worst happen.
"No one wants to think about disaster striking, but knowing that your family will not be left struggling will give you peace of mind and allow you to enjoy the many benefits that being self-employed brings."
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