Balancing work and life as a parent is a tricky combination at the best of times, but when you are a single parent, it is much trickier. There is no special or specific dispensation which requires an employer to give flexible working to a parent, be they a mother or father, or single parent, but under UK law all employees have the right to ask their employer for flexible working. There is an eligibility criterion for this, and a request to ask for it is different from them having to grant it
Requesting flexible working
Under the law, you have the right to request flexible working from your employer.
To do so, you must have been employed (without break) for 26 weeks or more. You can request flexible working more than once, but you can only do so once every 12 months.
An employer has 3 months to make a decision (it can be longer but they would need to agree this timescale with you) and if they agree to the changes, these should be reflected as a change of the terms of your contract with them.
If your employer refuses your request, they must give you their business reasons for the decision.
You can find out more about the process and criteria for applying for flexible working on the gov.uk website.
Time off for dependants
Sometimes as a single parent, you may just need short term flexibility in order to care for an ill child or deal with some unexpected or emergency situation.
There is provision in the law for this, known as ‘Time off for dependants’.
You have the right to take time off work in these situations, as long as it is deemed to be a ‘reasonable’ amount. This time can be paid or unpaid; it will depend on your individual employer and your contract with them.
Time off for dependants only covers unexpected time off, you could not claim it for an appointment for a child which you have known about for some time, for example.
Find out more about this type of leave on the gov.uk website.