Sick Note Britain: the public and medical certification since the Second World War


  • Dr Gareth Millward

    University of Warwick

Project summary

Sick Note Britain investigates the concept of ‘the sick note’ and its use in Britain since the Second World War. The sick note is a form of medical certification that sits at the meeting point of medicine, industry, the British welfare state and lay conceptions of health. Yet it has not received serious historical analysis, despite a wealth of literature on the profound economic, political and cultural shifts in the post-war period.

This project investigates what attitudes towards sick notes tell us about the concepts of sickness and capacity for work. I will look at how the medical profession was used as the arbiter of sickness and how this role has changed, and whether attitudes toward the sick note differed between employees and employers. I will also look at the role of the state in the management, use and regulation of sick notes. The study will focus primarily on employment, industrial relations and health-related state benefits.

I will produce peer-reviewed research and publish a monograph. I will also engage policy informers about the historical and cultural context of sick notes in Britain and my research can act as the basis for future research into medical certification.