Washington’s Stay at Work Program Turns One, Helps 1,200 Employees Remain on the Job

The purpose of Washington's new Stay at Work Program is to encourage more employers to return their injured workers to light-duty or transitional jobs with the doctor's approval.

One year into its new Stay at Work program, and Washington state’s Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has reimbursed 568 employers with $2.5 million and helped 1,200 injured workers remain on the job, making it one of the fastest growing workers’ compensation programs in the United States.

Stay at Work is a program that offers something for everyone including business, injured workers, and medical providers,” said Beth Dupre, assistant director for L&I Insurance Services. “Everyone wins with this program.”

Governor Chris Gregoire signed legislation creating the Stay at Work Program into law on June 15, 2011. Under Stay at Work, employers who bring their injured workers back to light-duty or transitional work can receive up to half of the worker’s base wages for up to 66 days or $10,000 per claim.

The goal is to serve 1,000 injured workers each quarter. Ultimately, the program is projected to save $32 million annually by keeping workers on the job and reducing the chance of long-term disability. Studies show that employees who are off work longer than 6 months have only a 50 percent chance of ever returning to their jobs, while getting injured workers back to work actually can speed their recovery and improve lifelong health.

Businesses that qualify also can be reimbursed up to $1,000 for training materials and fees, up to $2,500 for tools and up to $400 for clothing needed for the light-duty or transitional job for each claim. In addition to being reimbursed for some of their costs, employers keep a skilled employee at work and avoid the cost of hiring and retraining someone new. There also is a benefit to workplace morale when an injured worker returns to the job after an accident.

Stay at Work is designed to help control workers’ comp insurance premiums, which helps control overall costs for employers and workers statewide. Employers can apply for reimbursements for injuries back to the June 15, 2011, anniversary date and have 1 year from the day the injured worker’s light duty work begins to apply for reimbursements.

L&I processes nearly 100,000 workers’ comp claims annually for about 160,000 employers statewide.

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