About Return to Work

About Return to Work

Help Your Employee Return to Work

Medical restrictions may prevent your employee from returning to their regular job after a workplace injury. Returning to work as quickly as possible is a team effort between you, your employee, and their attending provider. However, it is possible for them to return to work in a different capacity while still receiving medical benefits. Research shows the sooner your employee returns to work, the more likely they’ll preserve future income and health. There are several programs offered by Washington Labor and Industries to help you retain your recovering employees. Continue reading below to discover how and what programs would work best for your situation.

Light Duty Work

Light duty is work you may offer within your employee’s medical restrictions for them to perform while they recover. Light duty doesn’t have to directly relate to the work your employee was doing when they were injured. Light duty or transitional work could be:

  • Working shorter hours.
  • Doing some of the original duties part-time and gradually increasing to full-time work.
  • Performing different duties with lighter physical demands and growing into the original duties.
  • Adjusting the job or worksite to meet the physical limitations by providing tools, equipment, or appliances.
  • Creating a new job within the medical restrictions while your employee recovers.

The attending provider must approve the light-duty work when:

  • When you have light-duty work available.
  • You want to change the light-duty or transitional work.
  • The attending provider increases the worker’s restrictions.

Recovering employees are not required to accept any job that exceeds the restrictions given by their attending provider. To be eligible for reimbursement, it is your responsibility to ensure your employee does not work outside of their restrictions without written approval from the attending provider.

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 the claim is still open your employee may apply for Loss of Earning Power (LEP) benefits.

Some injuries are so severe you cannot bring your employee back to work right away. However, with most injuries, an early and medically approved return to work makes sense. Talk with your employee today about work they may be able to perform while they heal.

Stay at Work (SAW)

Eligible employers can be reimbursed for:

  • 50% of the worker's base wages, up to $10,000; or 66 days worked in the light-duty job, whichever comes first.
  • Some of the costs for training, tools, or clothing are needed to do the light-duty job.

Here's how:

  1. Read the Activity Prescription Form or medical records for medical restrictions provided by the attending provider due to accepted conditions.
  2. Complete the Employer's Job Description Form (F252-040-000) (Spanish) based on given restrictions using job duties or tasks you have available.
  3. Send the job description to the attending provider for their approval.
  4. Offer a light-duty job to your employee.
  5. Apply for wage and expense reimbursements online.

Send the following when you apply:

For wages

Copies of pay stubs and daily timesheets.

For expenses

Preferred Worker Program (PWP)

The Preferred Worker Program is a return-to-work incentive program for Washington employers. If a worker is permanently restricted from their job due to a workplace injury, they may be certified as a "preferred worker." Employers who hire a preferred worker for a medically-approved job can be eligible for the following benefits:

  • Claim protection against subsequent claims for up to 36 months.
  • Premium discount for the preferred worker’s coverage for up to 36 months. Use our Preferred Worker Calculator to estimate your company's quarterly savings.
  • Wage reimbursement for 50% of the preferred worker’s base wages for up to 66 working days (max $10,000).
  • Expense reimbursement for tools and equipment (max $2,500) and clothing (max $400) the worker needs to perform the approved job.
  • Continuous employment incentive of 10% of the preferred worker’s wages for the first 12 months (max $10,000).

Benefits are available to the employer during the preferred worker certification period. Washington State Fund employers must have an L&I account in good standing in order to participate.

Claim-Free Discount

If you prevent workplace injuries, you can qualify for a Claim-Free Discount. Employers qualify for a Claim-Free Discount after three years without a compensable claim, (a claim involving time-loss or permanent disability award).

The discount saves employers between 10-40% of the base insurance rate for their risk class, depending on the company size.

A single compensable claim will eliminate the Claim-Free Discount. Losing the discount may be more costly than preventing injuries, compensation duration, or implementing your return-to-work plan.

questions or concerns?

There is a lot to understand and if you find you need more clarification, we are here to help!
618 Quince St SE., PO Box 2227, Olympia, WA 98507-1588360.943.9198rtw@waretailservices.com

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