News for Small Business - April 2011

News for Small Business - News for L&I small business 

customers and tips for saving time and moneyI

September 2011 | L&I's Small Business Liaison, Celia Nightingale and Aaron Hoffman

Call: 1-800-987-0145. Fax: 360-902-5420. E-mail: SmallBusiness@Lni.wa.gov

Special Edition

No overall increase for workers' compensation rates in 2012

Washington State Legislative Building

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) today proposed its lowest workers’ compensation rate increase in five years.

To help save jobs in the state’s struggling economy, L&I is proposing a 2.5 percent average increase. While many were expecting a higher increase, reforms passed in the most recent legislative session prevented a double-digit rate increase.

“We recognize the impact of painfully slow economic growth, and this proposal balances that with the needs of the workers’ comp system,” L&I Director Judy Schurke said. “The reforms passed this year had the effect they were designed to — now and into the future.”

The landmark reforms to the system passed by the Legislature this year will save $1.1 billion over the next four years, and continue saving money into the future. Without the reforms, Schurke said a 10-14 percent increase would have been needed to cover the cost of 2012 claims and begin restoring the fund’s reserves.

Over the past three years, L&I used $332 million from the State Fund reserves to partially fund the premiums for employers and workers, holding down rates during the recession. This has significantly reduced the reserves, which are critically low by industry standards.

“This proposed increase is a small step toward rebuilding the state’s workers’ comp reserves. Although the workers’ comp trust funds remain solvent, we recognize the need to ensure the funds are protected in the event of a further economic downturn,” Schurke said. “This is consistent with past reports from the State Auditor.”

L&I will work with the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee, representing business and labor, on a multi-year plan to rebuild the reserves.
L&I adopted a 3.2 percent increase in 2008, a 3.1 percent increase in 2009, a 7.6 percent increase in 2010 and a 12 percent increase last year. Each of these rate increases was less than needed to cover the projected cost of claims that year.

In addition to using reserves to absorb some of the claims costs, L&I kept more than $200 million in the State Fund by the end of the last biennium by using Lean methodologies to reduce delays and waste, cutting administrative costs, and by:

  • Holding down medical cost inflation well below the national average.
  • Using technology to replace paper-based transactions.
  • Reducing employer, provider and workers fraud.
  • Using more effective methods to collect the money owed to the funds.

The proposed rate increase is an average for all Washington employers. Individual employers will see their rates go up or down, depending on their recent claims history and any changes in the frequency and cost of claims in their industry.

Washington is the only state where workers pay a substantial portion of premiums, about 24 percent of the 2012 proposed rate.

Every year in Washington, more than 100,000 claims are filed for medical costs and lost wages due to work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. Each year, L&I must review premium rates and make adjustments to cover the anticipated costs of claims that will be filed in the next year.
Public hearings on the proposed rates will be held in:

  • Vancouver, Oct. 25, 9 a.m., Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay
  • Tukwila, Oct. 26, 1 p.m., L&I Office
  • Bellingham, Oct. 26, 1 p.m., Bellingham Public Library
  • Richland, Oct. 27, 1 p.m., Red Lion Hotel Richland Hanford House
  • Spokane, Oct. 28, 10 a.m., Spokane CenterPlace Event Center
  • Tumwater, Oct. 28, 10 a.m., L&I Headquarters

More information regarding the rate proposal is available at www.Rates.Lni.wa.gov. The final rates will be adopted in early December and go into effect Jan. 1, 2012.

New "Stay at Work" program can save businesses money on workers' compensation premiums

One piece of the landmark workers’ compensation reform legislation signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire during the last legislative session is a new “Stay at Work” program that will reimburse business owners for creating transitional, light-duty jobs for their injured workers.  Studies show that light duty jobs help speed an injured workers’ medical recovery and reduce the risk of re-injury, which can help save an employer money on their workers’ comp premiums.

Eligible employers can be reimbursed for up to 50% of the injured worker's wages (up to $10,000 per claim) for each medically-approved transitional job they provide and for the cost of any instruction, tools and clothing the worker needs to do the transitional job.
Employers may be eligible if:

  • They have an active L&I account.
  • One of their workers has an injury claim with L&I.
  • The injured worker has been released by their health-care provider, with medical restrictions, to do a specific transitional job while recovering from the workplace injury.

Although the program forms and procedures are still in development, the new law went into effect June 15, 2011.  Employers who provided approved light-duty jobs to injured workers on or after June 15 could be eligible for reimbursement for qualifying wages and expenses incurred. Employers should keep payroll records and expense receipts so they are ready to apply for reimbursement when the programs’ payment system is launched toward the end of 2011.

To learn more about the Stay at Work Program, visit www.StayAtWork.Lni.wa.gov.

RESOURCES

Biz Fair 2011 - Saturday, September 24 - One Day, One Place

Learn from the experts how to form and run a successful business at the 15th annual Washington Small Business Fair.  Biz Fair 2011 happens Saturday, September 24, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Renton Technical College, 3000 NE 4th Street, in Renton.

Sharpen your skills - attend seminars that cover important, up-to-date topics for all stages of business ownership. Savvy business experts share their knowledge and real-life experiences with you. 

Save valuable time - connect with 30 federal, state and local government agencies, and business and trade associations to get the information you need. 

The fair is free, with plenty of free parking and no advance registration.

Visit www.bizfair.org for more information.

Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bizfair.

Washington Small Business Fair (Biz Fair)
http://www.bizfair.org/
Saturday, September 24, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Renton Technical College
3000 NE 4th St
Renton, WA

info@bizfair.org
206-220-5300
Sponsor: http://www.bizfair.org/committee.htm.

"Employer's Intro to L&I" coming to six cities soon

Business owners and managers can gain significant understanding toward preventing unnecessary costs, citations and employment issues by attending L&I’s “Employer’s Introduction to L&I.” 

Free workshops are being offered in:

  • Tumwater, Sept. 28, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Tukwila, Oct. 5, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Everett, Oct. 11, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Vancouver, Oct. 15, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Mt. Vernon, Nov. 9, 9 a.m. to noon
  • Tacoma, Nov. 17, 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

For complete information about the workshops, visit Employer’s Introduction to L&I.

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