Medical restrictions may prevent you from returning to your regular job after a workplace injury. However, it is possible to return to work in a different, light duty capacity while still receiving medical benefits. Research shows the sooner you return to work, the more likely you’ll preserve future income and health.
Returning to work as quickly as possible is a team effort between you, your doctor, and your employer. L&I can help facilitate a smooth return to work.
Light duty is work your employer may offer within your medical restrictions for you to perform while you recover. Light duty doesn’t have to be directly related to the work you were performing at the time of injury.
Light duty or transitional work could be:
- Working shorter hours.
- Doing some of your original duties part time and gradually increase to full-time work.
- Performing different duties with lighter physical demands and grow into your original duties.
- Adjusting your job or worksite to meet your physical limitations by providing tools, equipment, or appliances.
Creating a new job with your employer within your restrictions while you recover. Talk to your employer about reimbursements available through our Stay at Work program. They may be eligible for reimbursements for some of your base wages and expenses such as training and tools related to the light-duty work.
It is common to have concerns about returning to work and the impacts on your claim. Don’t let these concerns stop you from talking to your employer. You can continue to receive treatment for your accepted industrial conditions until you’ve reached maximum medical improvement.
Loss of earning power
Occasionally an employer wants to bring someone back to light duty, and can only afford to bring their employee back to work part-time or at a lower rate of pay. If this happens and your claim is still open, you may apply for Loss of Earning Power (LEP) benefits.
You are not required to accept any job exceeding the restrictions given by your attending provider. However, if your employer offers you light duty or transitional work, approved by your attending provider, and you choose to decline it is unlikely you will be eligible to receive further time-loss or LEP benefits.
Collaborate with your employer
When your employer offers you light duty or you talk to them about work you can do, you are collaborating in your healing process. Return to work is critical to your return to daily routines, and you are a valuable employee to your employer.
Some injuries are so severe that you can't go back to work right away. With most injuries, however, an early and medically-approved return to work makes sense.
Talk with your employer about work you may be able to perform while you heal.
Many resources are available to help you return to work or train for a new job once your claim is closed.
Get help finding work
- The Employment Security Department determines if you qualify for unemployment benefits.
- WorkSource provides job search assistance including:
- Job listings
- Interview skills
- Resume writing
- Occupations in demand
- Retraining support for those who qualify
Train for a new job
- Career Bridge helps you find the education and training you need to get the job you want.
- Apprenticeship programs allow you to earn wages while training for a new career.
- Check out a College matches your interests with community and trade programs in Washington.
- Work with a vocational counselor to learn about training programs and develop a training plan.
As an injured worker, you may be eligible if:
- You have an open State Fund claim with us,
- Your workplace injury or illness resulted in a permanent loss of physical or mental function which may be a substantial barrier to employment, and from which further medical improvement is not expected, and
- Your medical provider permanently restricted you from returning to your job of injury based on medical findings.
Getting preferred worker status
You or anyone directly involved with your claim may submit a Preferred Worker Request form (F280-060-000).
We do not require a credentialed vocational provider to submit this form. However, a vocational provider is a valuable resource for return-to-work opportunities. Workers and employers can benefit from this 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.
The certification period begins your first workday after we receive all required paperwork from the first employer who hires you as a preferred worker. It ends after 36 consecutive months or 5 years after your claim closure, whichever comes first.
Find out more about the Preferred Worker Program