Expanded in 2016
The Preferred Worker Program is one of our return-to-work incentive programs.
We may certify a worker with permanent medical restrictions as a "preferred worker." This certification enables an employer to receive financial incentives when they hire the worker for a medically-approved, long-term job.
You may receive:
Stay at Work is another return-to-work incentive program. We reimburse employers for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for injured workers while they heal.
You may qualify for both!
For questions or to schedule a presentation to your organization:
As an employer, you may be eligible for preferred worker benefits if you:
As an injured worker, you may be eligible if:
You or anyone directly involved with your claim may submit a Preferred Worker Request form.
We do not require a credentialed vocational provider to submit it. However, a vocational provider is a valuable resource for return-to-work opportunities. Workers and employers can benefit from their expertise.
Ask your vocational provider if you meet the criteria. If you are not working with a vocational provider, ask your Claim Manager or contact the Preferred Worker Program by calling 1-800-845-2634 or emailing PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov.
During your certification period, any eligible employer who hires you at an approved job can use the preferred worker benefits available to them.
While preferred worker certification lasts for up to 36 months, during that time, your certification can be interrupted if medical documentation shows you are unable to work or look for work due to the industrial injury or illness for which your preferred worker certification was granted. Once you are again able to work or look for work, the certification period will resume.
If in the future your condition improves to the point your doctor releases you to return to your job of injury with no restrictions, you will no longer be eligible for preferred worker benefits.
Preferred worker certification is granted under one claim only. If you become injured again and open a new claim after the 36-month certification period ends, you may be eligible for preferred worker certification under the new claim.
Yes, if your offered job is approved by L&I you will be eligible for some of the benefits offered by the Preferred Worker Program including premium relief and financial protection against subsequent claims. See "Benefits."
An employer that hires a preferred worker certified prior to January 1, 2016 is not eligible for reimbursements or a continuous employment incentive. The law that expanded the preferred worker benefits applies to workers certified on or after January 1, 2016.
You will not be eligible for preferred worker incentives if the job you offered is any of the following:
The employer is only eligible for preferred worker benefits when the offered job is approved by:
The final decision on whether the offered job meets the worker’s medical restrictions will be made by L&I’s vocational rehabilitation professional. Sometimes, a referral to an independent vocational rehabilitation professional for an on-site job analysis or other evaluation may be needed to confirm the job is appropriate for the worker’s restrictions.
If a preferred worker's employment is terminated before the end of the certification period, you should send written notification to:
State Fund employers:
As an eligible employer, you should apply as soon as possible. We cannot authorize any preferred worker benefits for dates worked prior to the department’s receipt of all required and completed documentation, with the exception of the continuous-employment incentive and equipment purchases.
If your employee is a certified preferred worker, then:
Your benefits can start the worker’s first workday after all the required completed paperwork is received by us, and can last:
As an eligible employer, your benefits may include:
The maximum limits on reimbursements for wages, tools, equipment, clothing, and the continuous-employment incentive apply per preferred worker certification period.
The benefits above apply only to preferred workers certified after January 1, 2016.
Additionally, eligible employers may receive financial protection against subsequent claims and premium relief.
You have one year from the date the work was performed to apply for reimbursements.
If you employ a preferred worker who is injured on the job or diagnosed with an occupational disease during the preferred worker certification period, L&I will pay the costs of the new claim with no direct cost or penalty to you.
If you’re a State Fund employer:
If you’re a self-insured employer:
See the Preferred Worker Calculations tool to compare premiums paid on preferred workers versus other employees.
Eligible employers may be reimbursed for 50% of the preferred worker’s basic gross wages for work performed in the new or modified medically-approved job. Reimbursements are paid on wages up to 66 days in a consecutive 24-month period, not to exceed $10,000.
NOTE: Employers must submit the request for reimbursements within one year of the date the work was performed.
If the preferred worker you hire has unique needs for clothing, equipment or tools that you do not normally purchase for your other workers, then you may be eligible for:
You must submit itemized receipts for the clothing, tools and equipment to L&I along with a reimbursement request form within one year of the date of purchase. All tools and equipment belong to the employer. All clothing belongs to the worker.
You can apply using the Preferred Worker Expense Reimbursement Application (form number F280-058-000). The form is available at Lni.wa.gov/forms.
An eligible employer who continuously employs a certified preferred worker at the medically-approved job without reduction in base wages for at least 12 months may receive a one-time continuous-employment incentive payment of 10% of the worker’s wages or $10,000 (whatever is the lesser amount).
“Without reduction” means the worker receives the same base wage or greater from the date of hire throughout the 12-month period. Additionally, the employer must continue any health care benefits the worker had at the time of hire, unless these benefits are inconsistent with the employer’s current benefit program for workers.
“Continuous employment” means maintaining the same medically-approved work pattern as the approved job.
“Same work pattern” generally refers to the number of hours worked per week and the worker’s primary shift (days, swing or graveyard) as long as total hours are not reduced. For example, a farm laborer returns to medically-approved work as an employee in the farm’s retail outlet, working Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 32-hours per week. A month later, the schedule changes to Tuesday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., 32-hours per week. In this example, the work pattern is the same as the medically-approved job at date of hire. However, a change to shift hours that are from 4:00 p.m. to midnight may be a change in work pattern.
NOTE: Only one continuous employment incentive is payable per worker certification period.
The 12 months begin the date the worker is certified as a preferred worker, or the first date of employment, whichever is later. Once the worker has completed 12 months of continuous employment in keeping with rules, the employer may apply for the continuous-employment incentive.
There is a consecutive 24-month limit. You can only be reimbursed for up to 66 days worked that are within 24-months of the first date we reimbursed you for wages paid to the preferred worker.
For example, if the first work date reimbursed was February 1, 2016, then the 24-month eligibility period for reimbursements ends on January 31, 2018.
No. The Preferred Worker Program does not offer reimbursement for training.
If L&I receives a valid reimbursement request from more than one employer within the same worker certification period, the requests will be paid in the order received by the department, up to the stated limits for wages, clothing, equipment and tools.
We will send notification when a worker is certified as a preferred worker and when we approve a hiring employer’s application for program incentives.
If your health care provider has permanently restricted you from returning to your job of injury because of permanent loss of physical or mental function related to the industrial injury or illness, you may be eligible for certification through the Preferred Worker Program.
Make sure that any physical activity you perform on the job or at home is within the medical restrictions prescribed by your doctor.
Yes, you can change employers as many times as you want within the certification period as long as the work is within your medical restrictions. Whatever time and incentives remain in your preferred worker certification period can be applied to a new employer.
No. Employers in other states that are not governed by the workers’ compensation laws of Washington would not benefit from this program. However, you may choose to return to work with any employer you wish.
First, your employer benefits by having your contributions and skills at work. Also, either your employer of injury or a new employer who offers you work within your medical restrictions may be eligible for financial benefits.
No. You are not required to; it's your choice. Decide if you want to use the preferred worker benefit in your job search.
Many employers welcome preferred workers because of the financial incentives the program offers employers.
If you choose not to tell the employer about your preferred worker certification, the employer will not get the benefit of the program, including the incentives and financial protection from potential new claim costs. Should you get injured in the future, they would not be covered by the benefits of the Preferred Worker Program.
You need to know your medical restrictions so you can minimize the risk of re-injury and ensure you are applying for jobs that can be approved for preferred worker benefits.
Make sure you have a copy of your most recent physical restrictions. They may be found in the Activity Prescription Form or Physical Capacity Evaluation. Look in your My L&I online account at Lni.wa.gov/MyLNI for these records.
No. At this time there is no list of employers. It's up to you to mention your preferred worker certification to potential employers. Many employers are familiar with the preferred worker benefits. For those who are not, the Preferred Worker Program brochure is a good introduction.
Show an interested employer the brochure you received with your certification letter.
You and the employer can get information from the Preferred Worker Program any time through the following:
As a vocational provider, you have an active role in assisting:
All of the following must be true:
In addition, at least one of the following may apply:
As a health care provider, you play a crucial role:
Your rapid response can help your patient obtain preferred worker certification and return quickly to a new job within their medical restrictions.
Any employer, including the employer of injury, may qualify if they hire a certified preferred worker in a job approved by the worker's health care provider and a qualified vocational provider (the final decision is made by an L&I VSS).
The employer must be:
The job must:
The job cannot be:
Do NOT attach the Preferred Worker form and supporting documents to other vocational reports.
To help support injured worker recovery, please make sure you've submitted the correct form to L&I. If you attach the form to other vocational reports, send incomplete information, or use outdated versions of the form, services to the worker and/or hiring employer will be delayed.
Please recycle all discontinued forms and publications.
The preferred worker certification requirements have changed, so more information is needed.
Incomplete forms with missing information or missing attachments will delay services to the worker and hiring employer.
Please see the Preferred Worker Request form (F280-060-000) for what documents the vocational provider needs to include with a request for preferred worker certification.
Yes, you only need to complete Part A if you are applying for preferred worker certification on behalf of the worker. However, you should assist the employer in completing Part B of the form if they need the assistance.
If the worker already has preferred worker certification, the employer only needs to complete Part B of the Preferred Worker Request form. Make sure to attach the required documentation. Then send the request form to:
Department of Labor & Industries
P.O. Box 44291
Olympia, WA 98504-4291
or FAX to 360-902-4567
Note that Part B replaces the old Intent to Hire Preferred Worker form, which should be recycled.
Good standing means the employer's account with L&I is active and they are current on their premiums or the payment required under an approved payment plan. You can check the L&I website at Lni.wa.gov/Verify to see if an employer has any outstanding payments.
The Preferred Worker Program:
The Stay at Work Program:
Possibly. The employer may qualify for Stay at Work Program reimbursements during the worker's temporary disability. If the worker's disability is later determined to be permanent and the worker becomes certified as a preferred worker, the employer may work with the qualified vocational provider to develop a new preferred worker job and apply for approval using the Preferred Worker Request form.
The employer needs to complete and submit the preferred worker reimbursement forms:
No, there are no changes to paperwork or billing procedures.
Frequently used billing codes include:
For more billing information, see L&I's Fee Schedules and Payment Policies (MARFS)
The Stay at Work Program supports workers who have temporary work restrictions by offering incentives to employers who provide light-duty, medically- approved jobs.
The Preferred Worker Program supports workers who have permanent medical restrictions by offering incentives to employers who provide medically-approved jobs that will continue to be available into the foreseeable future.
The injured worker's health care provider, which could be:
There are many resources available for employers and workers to help support people living with permanent physical or mental restrictions.
As a certified preferred worker, your vocational provider can assist you in finding a job that meets your medical restrictions. Anything you can do to support your own job search will help you find a job sooner.
As an employer, you can find assistance through L&I or from any of the resources below to help create a job that meets the physical or mental restrictions of a certified preferred worker.
L&I partners with Washington State's Employment Security Department (ESD) to help injured workers re-connect to a new job after an injury. Re-employment specialists located at L&I and in WorkSource Centers across Washington assist by:
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers free and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace. See askjan.org.
JAN's Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) features a multi-step tool for finding accommodation ideas that can be used for temporary or permanent light-duty or modified-duty job descriptions. Follow the step-by-step process to locate accommodation ideas by the specific disability-related limitation.
DVR provides services to individuals who want to work but need assistance due to a physical, sensory, cognitive or mental disability. A DVR counselor works with each individual one-on-one to design a customized, step-by-step plan to achieve the desired job goal. You must qualify for these services. Once you fill out an application, DVR gathers records to verify your identity, disability and work status. You do not have to pay for services that DVR needs to establish your eligibility.
A consumer advocacy network that provides information, resources and consultation on assistive technology. See watap.org
Provides free consultation regarding compliance with the American Disabilities Act. See Northwest ADA Center
Managed by the U. S. Department of Labor, the website lists programs and resources that help connect people with disabilities to resources including employment information. See Disability.gov
USAJobs is the Federal government's official site for job information. It includes thousands of job postings across the United States and around the world. Through this site, you can search for openings in a particular field, city, or agency, or all three. See USAJobs
For questions or to schedule a presentation to your organization:
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