Incentive Program Nets Employers $20 Million
Replacing a long-term employee can end up costing an employer three to four times the person’s wage, by some estimates. That’s the rationale some Washington employers are using to take advantage of a program that helps fund light-duty work for injured workers.
Called stay-at-work, the program pays half the employee’s base wages plus other expenses for qualified employers. In its first two years, nearly $20 million has been paid to the more than 2,400 employer participants.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, the state’s monopolistic workers’ comp provider, started the program to encourage more employers to keep injured workers on the job. The department is holding a series of webinars to encourage more employers to take advantage of the program.
“There is too much opportunity for an injured worker to slip through the cracks when they are on wage-replacement benefits while staying at home,” said Tatyana Fomenko with Rizzuto Foods, a wholesale bakery manufacturer in Spokane. “We would rather have them here where we can help them stay connected to their work. They feel better when they see that we care about their recovery.” The company has helped three injured workers by giving them medically approved light-duty work after an injury and has been reimbursed with nearly $8,000 in wages.
Eligible employers can be reimbursed for 50 percent of the injured worker’s base wages for the light-duty or transitional work for up to 66 days in which work was actually performed per claim, or up to $10,000 per claim. Fewer than eight hours still counts as one day. The work must be performed within a consecutive 24-month period.
Employers may also be reimbursed for training and tools required due to the injured worker’s unique needs. It cannot be a cost the employer incurs when hiring other workers to do the same job. Included are:
• Training fees or materials, up to $1,000 per claim. Examples are tuition, books, or supplies.
• Tools up to $2,500 per claim. Examples are a special wrench or keyboard tray.
• Clothing up to $400 per claim. An example is steel-toed boots.