Four out of five freelancers and micro-business owners admit that they have worked through an illness rather than taking time off.
A poll of 500 self-employed Brits carried out by cloud accounting software company FreeAgent has found that 82% admit that they have worked through an illness at some point while running their own business because they felt they "could not afford to take time off".
The research also shows that many freelancers are regularly working long hours, with nearly a third (30%) of respondents saying that they said they worked more than 48 hours per week on their business; 5% said that they spent more than 64 hours each week working.
Ed Molyneux, ceo and co-founder of FreeAgent, said: "Running a small business can be incredibly tough. But what makes self-employment especially tough is that there is rarely any kind of safety net in place to help protect you from the unforeseen.
"If you're too sick to work, you won't make any money - and it's clear that many micro-business owners feel that they have to tough through an illness rather than actually taking time to rest and recuperate. That's just not a sustainable solution in the long run and it means that the UK's micro-business sector could actually be putting its health at serious risk."
Earlier this year, a poll carried out by FreeAgent and the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA) found that 76% of self-employed people currently do not have any method of providing sick pay, maternity/paternity leave, holiday or redundancy pay in their business.
Those findings also showed that sick pay provision is the benefit that self-employed people would most welcome.
Molyneux said: "In an ideal world, micro-business owners would be able to put money aside to cover periods of sickness and give themselves a chance to properly recover. But … for many, self-employment can be a hand-to-mouth existence and they don't have the required funds available to protect themselves from the unexpected.
"With the Government currently considering 'levelling the playing field' when it comes to the amount of tax that employed and self-employed people pay, I would like to see some focus being put on this issue - and potentially the introduction of support to help people who run their own businesses mitigate the risks of self-employment and ensure that they do not put their health in jeopardy."