A new advertising campaign on television and the Internet is encouraging employers in Washington state to provide light-duty jobs for their employees while they recover from workplace injuries. The Stay at Work program at the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) was authorized by the Legislature in 2011.
The program reimburses employers for half of an injured worker’s base wages and some of the cost of training, tools and clothing the worker needs to do the light-duty job. About 100,000 employees are injured on the job and file workers’ compensation claims in Washington state each year.
“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 first year of the program, more than 1,500 employers were reimbursed for part of the cost of placing 4,500 injured workers in medically-approved light-duty jobs. These employers received $8.7 million from L&I to help pay wages and expenses for their injured workers in light-duty jobs.
The program has already saved about $7.5 million that would have been paid out in wage replacement benefits if these injured workers had not been able to return to work. L&I expects to continue saving money on the same workplace injuries because fewer of them will lead to long-term disabilities and pensions.
Washington’s program is modeled after a 20-year old program in Oregon that has resulted in significant long-term savings.
The advertising campaign, called “Working Solutions”, also promotes L&I’s online service that allows workers and health care providers to file workers’ compensation 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 WorkingSolutions.Lni.wa.gov.