Businesses that help their injured workers stay on the job may be eligible for reimbursement: Stay at Work begins today

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TUMWATER –Employers who have provided light-duty jobs to injured workers may be entitled to a reimbursement from the state Department of Labor & Industries as part of a new program to keep injured workers at work and help employers make that happen.

The new Stay at Work program, available to employers who pay premiums to L&I, partially reimburses Washington employers for the cost of bringing injured workers back to safe, light-duty jobs before they are medically cleared to return to their old jobs.

While the program is being launched today, the law creating it took effect on June 15, 2011, and L&I expects several thousand reimbursement requests from employers who have been providing light-duty jobs for their injured workers since the legislation took effect.

The new program was one of several, historic workers’ compensation reforms passed during the 2011 legislative session. The reforms are meant to reduce costs and improve the recoveries of 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.”

Under the Stay at Work program, the employer creates a light-duty or transitional job for the injured worker in keeping with medical restrictions, and the worker receives a wage from the employer instead of time-loss compensation from L&I.  An example might be an employer who creates an inventory job for a forklift driver recovering from a broken foot.

L&I’s Stay at Work program then reimburses the employer 50 percent of the worker’s base wage, plus some expenses, up to $10,000 per claim.

The program model, already successful in Oregon, tends to speed recoveries and reduce long-term disability.  Occupational health professionals say that recovering workers who are more active and engaged are less likely to suffer from long-term disability.

“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.”

The strategy of putting injured workers on light duty has long been used by large employers as a way to control premium costs, but Stay at Work should make it more affordable for small employers.

In addition to Stay at Work, L&I this year is launching several other reforms aimed at reducing costs and improving worker health, including a Workers’ Compensation Provider Network, expansion of the successful Centers for Occupational Health and Education (COHE), and Structured Settlement Agreements.

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For media information: Dana Botka, L&I, 360-902-5408.

Broadcast version: The Department of Labor & Industries is launching a new program today that will partially reimburse employers who find safe, light-duty employment for injured workers not yet medically cleared to do their old jobs. The agency said it expects its new Stay at Work program will receive several thousand reimbursement requests right away.  L&I officials said the program – already successful in Oregon – can help many businesses control their premiums.  It is also designed to keep recovering workers active and engaged with their workplaces, encouraging faster recoveries and reduced disability. For information, visit www dot lni dot wa dot gov.

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