A newly-created TV and Internet advertising campaign is encouraging Washington state employers to offer light-duty jobs to employees during periods where they are recovering from workplace injuries. This “Stay at Work program” through the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) was enacted by the Legislature in 2011.
The program reimburses employers for one half of an injured worker’s base wages plus a portion of training costs, tools and uniforms a worker might need to perform a light-duty job. Every year nearly 100,000 employees suffer a workplace injury and file workers’ compensation claims in Washington state.
“For many injured workers, being off work after an injury can lead to a downward spiral that includes long-term unemployment and a significant loss of lifetime earnings,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “This campaign encourages employers, workers and health care providers to develop more light-duty jobs that help injured workers stay in the workforce. Helping an injured worker return to work benefits everyone.”
In the initial year of the program, over than 1,500 employers received compensation for part of the cost of placing 4,500 injured workers in medically-approved light-duty jobs. L&I disbursed $8.7 million to those employers to help pay wages and expenses for the light-duty work performed by their injured workers. Up to this point, the program has already saved about $7.5 million that would otherwise have been paid out in wage replacement benefits if those injured workers were unable to return to work. L&I predicts that the financial savings will continue since fewer of the cases will develop into long-term disabilities and pensions.
Washington’s program followed in the footsteps of a 20-year old program in Oregon that has yielded extraordinary long-term savings.
The advertising campaign, titled “Working Solutions”, also promotes L&I’s online service, which enables workers and health care providers to file injury claims online. By getting new claims to L&I faster, online filing speeds up efforts to help injured workers return to work.
For more information go to www.WorkingSolutions.Lni.wa.gov
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