Proposed legislation will expand equitable access to Return to Work and Stay at Work reimbursements

Jan 5, 2023
Written by WR Communications

WR has developed a proposal to expand access to light-duty offerings and the Stay-at-Work (SAW) reimbursement program. The proposal will allow more workers and employers in Washington State to benefit from the program.

Trend data since 2012 suggests that the SAW program has been successful in reducing long-term disability claims and improving the mental well-being of workers recovering from injuries. However, the current statute that governs the program has a limitation: to be eligible for reimbursement for light-duty offerings, workers must be employed by the company where they sustained the injury. This limitation can create inequitable access to the Return to Work (RTW) program for certain groups of employers and workers. For example:

  • Small businesses are less likely to have light-duty jobs suitable for RTW.
  • Frontline workers, particularly in small businesses, are less likely to have remote light-duty work positions available and a high percentage of them are in lower-wage brackets.
  • Injured workers who move out of state are less likely to access RTW, especially when their employer of injury cannot offer remote work options.

In January 2022, the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research published a paper on the benefits and barriers to off-site light-duty volunteer work for injured workers. The report, which WorkSafe Victoria in Australia commissioned, presents an initial positive review of the program. Additional data on the program’s success in the construction, healthcare, hospitality, and retail industries can be found in this link.

Several companies specialize in connecting injured workers with non-profit organizations that can offer suitable light-duty work. This approach benefits everyone involved: the worker can continue to earn an income while recovering, the employer can retain valuable employees, the local non-profit can support its mission, and the community can benefit from the non-profit’s services. This creates a “triple win” for all parties involved.

We expect the bill to be introduced in the first week of the session with bi-partisan sponsors. If you’re interested in learning more about the bill or these off-site light-duty volunteering opportunities, please reach out to Rose Gundersen at [email protected].


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