L&I’s Stay at Work Program Benefits Businesses by Assisting in Safely Returning Employees to Work After Injury
by Emily Sixta
The importance of worker safety cannot be understated. At a time when businesses are doing everything possible to maintain operations and remain as lean as possible, reducing on-the-job injuries and employee absences is of utmost importance. When an employee sustains serious injuries, it can lead to multiple months of missed work resulting in interruptions to business operations, loss of productivity and additional costs to train a new or interim employee. This is not only detrimental to your business but also has a substantial impact on the employee’s income and can negatively affect their feelings of self-worth and further hinder their recovery. To mitigate these issues, L&I offers a Stay at Work program geared toward returning previously injured employees back to work in a safe manner.
When done properly, bringing an employee back to work quickly, and safely, can reduce costs to your business and reduce the likelihood of the employee being on permanent assistance. With L&I’s Stay at Work Program, eligible employers can receive reimbursement costs associated with bringing an injured employee safely back to work, including pay and alterations to the workplace or equipment. Employers benefit by retaining skilled employees and employees benefit by getting back to work more quickly and in a safe manner.
What Is Your Company Required to Do?
With the Stay at Work program, employers provide light-duty or interim positions, complying with any medical advice, that allow employees to return to work as they heal from their injuries. This may include providing the employee with a reduced schedule, adjusting their job duties to those with less physical demands while the employee heals and then phasing in more strenuous work as allowed or adjusting the worksite and/or equipment to meet the limitations of the employee. Employers may work with the injured party’s practitioner to develop an approved plan that is mutually beneficial to the business and employee.
Who is Eligible?
To be eligible for the Stay at Work program, employers must be paying workers’ compensation premiums to L&I, meaning that it is not available for self-insured employers. Also, L&I states that at the time of the injury or occupational disease on the claim, the employer must be either “an employer whose experience rating is affected by the allowed claim because you once employed the worker,” or, “the worker’s last employer when the allowed claim was filed, even if the claim will not affect your experience rating.”
What Can Be Reimbursed?
Employers can be reimbursed for 50% of the worker’s base wages equaling up to $10,000, or wages for 66 days worked within a consecutive 24-month period in the light duty job, whichever comes first. Base wages may include the hourly or base rate and overtime but cannot include tips, bonuses, commission, board, housing or fuel. In addition, employee benefits such as healthcare, vacation, sick leave or holiday pay cannot be covered within the reimbursement.
L&I can also reimburse employers for part of the cost in training, tools and clothing necessary for performing duties approved within the back-to-work plan. This allows employers to adequately prepare a workspace that is medically approved for the injured employee. All expensed items must be purchased in order to assist the worker in performing the light duty work; meaning employers cannot be reimbursed for any equipment, tools, training, or clothing that would be regularly provided to employees.
Through the Stay at Work program, employers collaborate with the injured employee and their practitioner to determine what is best for all parties involved. When employers, employees and practitioners come together to find mutually beneficial ways for previously injured employees to return to work quickly, everyone benefits. To learn more about the Stay at Work program, eligibility and how your company can benefit, visit www.StayatWork.LNI.wa.gov.