Tradespeople up in arms over booming Jack-of-all-trades phenomenon

Photo: archive of Radio Prague

Czech tradespeople are up in arms over the increasing rivalry that plumbers, painters and electricians are getting from unqualified jacks-of- all trades who make a living by helping out with whatever needs to be done around the house. The “hodinový manžel” - or husband for an hour, as they are called in Czech –has become a new phenomenon in the Czech economy and hundreds of men have turned it into a profitable business.

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
The “husband for an hour” rental business has become an increasingly popular phenomenon. They offer a broad range of services, flexible working hours and are generally available at shorter notice than regular firms. This means that you can call one in to paint you bedroom, hang your curtains, fix a dripping tap and mow the lawn, all in one day. It is a practical and financially advantageous option and more and more Czechs are making use of it. Peter Hrabánek, who has been making a living as a hodinový manžel for six years, told Czech Radio he is never short of work.

“I do house painting, masonry work, electrician jobs –that’s my profession, I can install flooring or fix a broken shelf, I do whatever people need done around the house.”

Photo: archive of Radio Prague
Petr Hrabánek is happy with his newly-established business. It pays well and gives him independence. So are hundreds of others working in the field. However professional tradesmen are up in arms over the booming jack-of-all-trades phenomenon. They say these people are increasingly taking away their work and not delivering a professional job. The Association of Small and Mid-Sized Entrepreneurs has written a protest letter to Trade and Industry Minister Jan Mládek, demanding an amendment to the law which would only allow jacks-of-all trades to do small jobs around the house, such as washing windows and mowing the lawn. The association’s president Karel Havlíček says they should leave the rest to professionals.

“It is as if you went to the dentist and he said he was too busy to attend to you, but the nurse offered to fix your teeth instead.”

The association’s demand is well-timed. The Trade Ministry is currently working on a draft amendment of the law on self-employed and Minister Mládek has promised to take its concerns into account.

Jan Mládek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“This concern does not relate to husbands-for-an-hour alone, it also relates to other areas of the shared economy. For instance there is the question whether you need to be qualified to work as a taxi driver and so on. So we will take this matter into account.”

The respective amendment to the law should be put to the lower house in the autumn and any changes made would take effect in 2017.