Washington Labor and Industries’ Stay-at-Work (SAW) program is an incentive program that reimburses employers for providing light duty accommodations to their injured workers. There is no cost for employers to participate in the SAW program, so this is a major opportunity for organizations to recoup some of their expenses.
First off, for an employer to be eligible for reimbursement, their injured worker must have light duty restrictions from a medical provider, the employer must provide a light duty or modified duty job to accommodate those restrictions, and the worker’s medical provider must approve the light duty job description. The employer must submit the SAW wage or expense reimbursement application within one calendar year after the employee starts the medically approved light duty job.
For each allowed light duty claim, employers can request SAW reimbursements for up to:
- $1,000 in training equipment or expenses
- $2,500 for tools and equipment
- $400 for clothing
- 50% of a worker’s wages paid while working light duty for a maximum of 66 days or $10,000
Unless you participate in Archbright’s Retrospective Rating or ReClaim programs through which our claims team will complete and submit member SAW reimbursement applications, you will need to complete the applications yourself. Here are some tips on how to maximize your Stay at Work reimbursement.
Be Creative When Determining Light Duty Accommodations
Think outside the box when developing a light duty or modified duty job. The light duty job doesn’t have to be a modified version of the worker’s normal job (also called their job of injury). Injured workers can work in a different department, catch up on required training or certifications, or learn new skills. This is an opportunity for a win-win for the company and the employee since learning new skills while recovering from their injury could benefit both parties.
If you are having trouble finding a full-time light duty position, another option is for the injured worker to perform various tasks in multiple departments. Not only will this keep your injured worker engaged, but it can help ensure that they are working all their approved light duty hours to help maximize the SAW wage reimbursement.
Workers should receive an APF (activity prescription form) documenting their physical restrictions from their medical provider regularly. Ask your injured workers to submit their APFs to you following each of their medical appointments. We recommend reviewing all new APFs closely so that you can provide appropriate accommodations and be aware of any changes to their physical restrictions or work hours. Proof of the medical restrictions is required for all SAW reimbursements. If the medical providers do not submit the necessary documentation to the claim file, then the employer can submit the APFs they have collected from the worker with the SAW reimbursement application to prevent delay or denial of reimbursement.
Create a Thorough Job Description
A light duty job description shouldn’t be taken lightly (no pun intended). The description must clearly show what accommodations have been made to meet the worker’s medical restrictions, including the employer and worker’s information, the light duty job title, all essential job duties, and all physical demands. If possible, use a new job title for the worker’s temporary light duty job. This helps clarify that light duty accommodations are being made and that the worker is not being asked to return to their job of injury.
Ensure the injured worker follows all medical light duty restrictions while performing their light duty or modified duty job, which includes physical restrictions limitations and restricted work hours.
L&I could deny the SAW wage reimbursement application if the worker is performing duties not included in the light duty job description. For example, if their job duties exceed the medical restrictions, or are working more hours than their medical provider approved. If the worker’s job duties or work hours change, the employer must develop a new light duty job description for the medical provider to review and approve those changes.
Keep a Log of the Wage Reimbursements
The SAW wage reimbursement application must include a medically approved light duty job description, pay stubs, and timesheets. For non-exempt workers, daily timesheets are required to verify the number of hours worked per day. It is best practice for exempt workers to keep a log of days worked vs. days off while performing their medically approved light duty job.
To keep track of hours worked, you can keep an official log in your timecard system or a less formal log on paper or an Excel sheet. The paystubs need to include the date ranges, pay date, and gross payment amount.
Remember that you cannot lump timecards and payroll summaries from multiple pay periods together, as L&I will not accept them. Also, SAW does not reimburse employers for holiday pay, vacation pay, sick pay, or kept on salary (KOS). Including the correct payroll documents and only applying for hours the injured employee worked can prevent processing delays or reimbursement denials.
If an injured worker earns various pay rates, such as shift differentials and overtime, it is essential to include those rates in the wage reimbursement application to help maximize the SAW reimbursement. Pay stubs need to clearly indicate the pay rate and the number of hours for each. If you cannot differentiate regular hours from overtime hours on the timecards, it is helpful to provide supporting documentation to verify when a special pay rate was applied and on what dates. If a third party, like Archbright, is completing the SAW reimbursement application on your behalf, please communicate with your contact and provide them with as much detail as possible so that the application is filled out accurately.
Don’t Forget to Submit Expense Reimbursements
Employers can apply for reimbursement(s) for clothing, equipment, tools, or training purchased specifically for the injured worker to perform the light duty or modified duty job. Purchases for normal expenses are not eligible for reimbursement, such as equipment essential for business or regularly used by other workers. For example, most organizations could consider desks as standard equipment and normal expenses. If a worker with a back injury is medically restricted from bending over and is directed to alternation between sitting and standing frequently, then an ergonomic sit-stand desk could be eligible for reimbursement if the business does not normally provide this type of desk for their other employees.
But the light duty job description must be approved by a medical provider before the employer makes any purchases. Include any planned purchases in the essential job duties/equipment section of the light duty job description. After the light duty job description is approved and the purchase is made, the employer must submit a dated, itemized receipt for the item(s) and the medically approved light duty job description as part of their SAW expense reimbursement application.
This process can be time-consuming, given all the steps necessary to obtain reimbursements. If you would like Archbright to do the work for you and process your Stay at Work applications, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org! You can also read more about the SAW program at www.Lni.wa.gov/StayAtWork.