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Washington state legislators have introduced a bill designed to create equitable access to the state’s workers compensation stay-at-work program, which was implemented to help reduce long-term disability.
House Bill 1137, which was pre-filed Thursday, is aimed at allowing employers to offer off-site, light-duty, return-to-work opportunities to injured workers.
Supporters of the measure say current law creates inequities because small employers are less likely to have suitable light-duty jobs and because frontline workers in small businesses are less likely to have access to remote light duty work.
The bills states that return-to-work access is more acute for lower wage earners, many of whom are frontline workers, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has “illuminated the particularly limited and inequitable access to return to work between frontline and remote workers.”
The bill also amends current statute to allow for employers to offer off-site, light-duty return-to-work with an approved nonprofit organization so long as the employer remains responsible for any new injury or occupational disease incurred while the worker is on off-site, light-duty work.
Washington state’s stay-at-work program was created to reduce long-term disabilities and the cost of injuries by incentivizing employers to offer workers transitional return-to-work opportunities.
If signed by the governor, the new law would take effect on Jan. 1, 2024.