NEW research by Direct Line for Business (DL4B) reveals that more than half (51 per cent) of UK tradesmen rely on “TWAGs” (tradesmen’s’ wives and girlfriends) to help run their company.

Despite TWAGs working on average two days a week - with one in four working three or more days a week - nearly a third (31 per cent) of small trade business owners do not pay a TWAG any money at all.

The selfless contribution is particularly apparent as the TWAGs have been helping their partners for over four and a half years. In addition, two-thirds (65 per cent) of TWAGs, who help out in their partner’s small trade businesses, have other employment elsewhere.

Of those, one in four (26 per cent) work full time and two in five (39 per cent) work part time at another business.

The research showed that 46 per cent of small business owners rely on their partners to carry out general business administration, while one in five (19 per cent) employ their partner as a receptionist.

More than one in seven (14 per cent) rely on their partners to look after legal and accounting services. A further eight per cent of small trade business owners look to their partners to carry out sales, marketing and new business generation responsibilities.

Jazz Gakhal, head of Direct Line for Business, said: “Small businesses are crucial in re-energising the UK economy.

“It is therefore, heartening to see partners working together to help sustain these small companies despite not being fully financially compensated and, in many cases, not paid at all.

“It is clear that small trade businesses are seeking voluntary help from their partners to avoid high legal, secretarial or IT support fees but it is vital that these businesses ensure their partners are adequately covered in event of an accident.”

The research by DL4B looked at small trade businesses employing fewer than five people with an average annual turnover of around £124,000.