series event

"​​Telephonists 'not tea-drinkers" - Absenteeism, medical certification, and the postwar British welfare state​

​​Join us to hear about Dr Gareth Millward’s research on the history of the sick note within the British welfare state.​

A medical certificate from the Ministry of National Insurance, stamped ‘specimen’, dated 1953
​Credit: Available from The National Archives (London), reference PIN 35/100, shared under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0

​​According to the Manchester Guardian in 1954, civil servants had developed a reputation for ‘tea-drinking and form filling… [taking] a day off whenever they feel like it’. This was a serious problem for a nascent welfare state that needed peak productivity to pay off its war debts. 

During this seminar, Dr Gareth Milward will discuss this paper on medical absenteeism and the role of medical certification in determining “real” sickness in postwar Britain. The research comes from Sick Note: A History of the British Welfare State recently published by Oxford University Press. It shows how the scientific credentials of sick notes have always been questioned, yet they have remained central to policing the boundaries of “legitimate” absence. The debates surrounding this show the interconnectivity of medical, social security and employment policy in the British welfare state. 


​​Dr Gareth Millward, University of Southern Denmark ​ 

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