Employers who give injured workers the opportunity to stay at light-duty jobs during their recovery may be eligible for reimbursement through the Department of Labor & Industries. This incentive has emerged out of a new program in Washington State designed to keep injured workers in their jobs, while supporting employers who make this possible.
Washington’s new Stay at Work program is open to employers who pay workers’ compensation premiums to L&I. The program partially reimburses those businesses for the cost of returning employees with a work injury to light-duty jobs before they have medical clearance to return to their primary positions.
While the program was just launched yesterday, the legislation that produced it went into effect in June of 2011. L&I claim managers anticipate that thousands of reimbursement requests from businesses who’ve already been offering light-duty jobs to employees with work-related injury during the period since the legislation passed.
The new program is one of a number of historic workers’ compensation reforms to come out of the 2011 Washington legislative session. These reforms are intended to lower costs and improve the recovery rates for workers with on-the-job injuries.
“The Stay at Work program gives us a unique opportunity to give Washington businesses an active role in their injured workers’ recoveries and return to productive employment,” said L&I Assistant Director for Insurance Services, Beth Dupre. “Most important, we have a much better chance of helping injured workers stay on salary and in the game while they recover under their doctor’s care.”
Employers participating in the Stay at Work program help injured workers by creating light-duty or “transitional” jobs that adhere to physician’s recommendations and medical restrictions. Some workers will need to undergo an Independent Medical Examination as part of this process. During the prescribed recovery time, the injured worker earns wages from the employer rather than receiving time-loss compensation from L&I. For example, a worker with a construction site injury might take an inventory job while recovering from a back injury. Then through the Stay at Work program, L&I reimburses the employer for half of the worker’s base wage, plus some additional expenses (not to exceed $10,000 per L&I claim).
The program has already proved effective in Oregon, showing a tendency to speed recovery time and reduce long-term disability for a given workers compensation injury. Medical studies indicate that many workers recovering from an injury are less likely to suffer from long-term disability when they remain active and engaged.
“This is a win-win for our employers,” Dupre said. “It’s a strategy that will help their businesses and workers, and it won’t negatively impact their premium costs.”
If you need help with your L&I injury claim, contact a Seattle L&I Attorney.