In last week’s Ask Approach, we scared you with the all the ways that claims can raise your workers’ comp rates. The scariest thing of all is that rates can increase by 25% in just one year!

This week, take a deep breath and relax, as we go over one of the best ways to avoid scary impacts to your rates — by bringing your injured employee back to work as quickly as possible.

“But, we can’t bring our injured employee back because of (pick one) COVID-19 or we can’t accommodate their physical restrictions,” you say. Luckily, Approach and our clients have had luck in 2020 bringing injured employees back to work with work-from-home positions, allowing them to progress in their recovery while staying safe during the pandemic.

Stay-At-Work reimbursements still available

“A silver lining for Washington employers in 2020 is that the Stay-At-Work program has been available throughout this year, even for work-from-home positions,” says Jamie Graham, VP of Claims at Approach.

Learn more about the Washington Stay At Work program

“What’s more,” says Vanessa Hughes, a retro group lead at Approach, “the equipment reimbursement portion of Stay-At-Work is available for these positions. Employers can provide a home workstation and laptop for their injured employees, then get the expenses reimbursed within the guidelines of the program.”

That’s right, whenever you bring an injured employee back to temporary light-duty, L&I has up to $3,900 available for equipment and training reimbursements. When it comes to work-from-home, items such as desks, chairs, and laptops can all qualify for these funds, allowing your injured employee to get back on the job as quickly as possible and with little to no expense for your company.

(Approach clients – Please coordinate with our Stay-at-Work specialist, Michael Taylor, to ensure program coverage prior to purchasing equipment.)

Light-duty work-from-home positions

Light-duty positions must be bona-fide jobs that further the goals of the company. Here are some examples of jobs that are ideal for a work-from-home situation:

  • Administrative roles
  • Remote sales/marketing roles
  • Remote sales estimator
  • Safety training
  • DOSH/OSHA record keeping

Safety training for temporary light-duty

For injured employees requiring sedentary work for a period of time, safety training can be an ideal solution that gets them back on the job without the need for physical labor. The information they gain from the training can be shared with other employees or help your company to meet regulatory requirements.

Learn more about the Light-Duty Pathway program, with a special discount for Approach clients

Says Hughes, “Safety training at home is more cost-effective for employers than Kept-on- Salary (KOS) or time-loss and it keeps the injured employee engaged during his or her recovery. It can also be used when an injured employee is not motivated to return-to-work. Normally, providers would disallow travel to work in these situations, but we’ve found they’re more open to a work-from-home scenario.”

Permanent light-duty work from home

Work-from-home also has benefits on a permanent basis, when a light-duty job is needed in order to get the claim closed. With many offices closed due to COVID-19, it may not be possible to bring your injured employee back to a traditional office space. Or, if you’ve closed a satellite office, the remaining office may be too far away.

“We had a recent claim where the commute to the remaining office location would have been two hours each way, greatly exceeding that worker’s travel distance in their job of injury,” says Hughes.

In this situation, the employer offered a permanent, light-duty role that the injured employee could do from their own home – remote sales estimator job. This has helped mitigate retraining costs on the claim and moved it towards closure.

Claiming reimbursements for Washington Stay-At-Work

Your Approach retro coordinator will help you prepare a light-duty job description and offer letter that fits within the restrictions listed on the Activity Prescription Form.

“A silver lining for Washington employers in 2020 is that the Stay-At-Work program has been available throughout this year, even for work-from-home positions.”

Jamie Graham, VP Claims

Our full-time Stay-At-Work specialist can also help you plan equipment and software purchases, then help you file for reimbursements with L&I. Remember, you can claim up to $10,000 or 66 days of 50% wage reimbursements, plus up to $3,900 in equipment and training costs for each claim!

Many employers and employees learned this year that work-from-home has a lot of benefits, so don’t let your injured employees miss out! Talk with your retro coordinator to see if a temporary or permanent light-duty position at home can help move your claim forward.