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Return-to-Work assistance

Highlights

  • In 2018, the Employer-at-Injury Program had over 7,200 placements. The program was used by 1,780 employers.
  • In 2018, 465 workers started Preferred Worker Program contracts.
  • In 2018, 266 injured workers were found eligible for vocational assistance.

The fundamental goals of the workers’ compensation system include returning injured workers to their jobs quickly, safely, and with the aim of enabling them to earn close to their pre-injury wages. Oregon statute achieves these goals through the structure of disability benefits, discrimination protections, and re-employment programs.

The first of these is the structure of disability benefits. Temporary partial disability is used as an alternative to temporary total disability, keeping workers who can return to modified duty on the job. The chance of paying disability benefits for permanent impairment acts as an incentive for employers and insurers to get injured workers back to work. Second, statute prohibits employment discrimination and provides re-employment and reinstatement rights to injured workers. These civil rights laws for workers are enforced by the Bureau of Labor and Industries. Third, the workers’ compensation system assists injured workers in returning to work through three re-employment programs: the Employer-at-Injury Program (EAIP), the Preferred Worker Program (PWP), and the Vocational Assistance Program.

EAIP and PWP provide incentives for employers to re-employ injured workers. EAIP focuses on workers who have medical releases for temporary, restricted work. PWP is for workers who have known permanent work restrictions. Both programs attempt to provide early diagnosis and accommodation of medical restrictions in the workplace. The cost of EAIP and PWP benefits and insurer administration are paid from the Re-employment Assistance Program (RAP) within the Workers’ Benefit Fund (WBF). Revenue for the WBF comes primarily from assessments paid equally by workers and employers.

Vocational assistance is for injured workers with the most severe disabilities. Insurers and rehabilitation professionals develop formal training plans and make necessary purchases, usually for retraining, to re-employ disabled workers in suitable jobs. For injuries sustained after 1985, vocational assistance is funded through employers’ insurance premiums.

Economic conditions have an effect on all of the return-to-work programs.


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