Preferred Worker Program gives businesses an edge on their competition

By Dan Long, Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services

Running a business these days can be daunting. The costs of labor and insurance are ever increasing. There are costs for equipment, maintenance, and rent. The list goes on.

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For smaller businesses and start-ups, profit margins are razor-thin. One miscalculation, one distribution disruption, or one accident and the once black ink can start running crimson red.

The effects of accidents can often run deeper and last longer than originally thought. After an accident, productivity decreases, equipment can be damaged or destroyed, and, of course, there are personnel costs. Injuries, lost work time, workers’ compensation claims, and retraining staff members all take a toll on the bottom line.

Worst of all is the potential loss of good employees because they may no longer be able to do their job without limitations after an injury.

Help is available.

The Preferred Worker Program (PWP) is designed to get employees back to work who have been injured on the job. The Workers’ Compensation Division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services offers the program.

The program works by offering incentives to businesses who hire previously injured workers, also called preferred workers.

Using the program is good for both employees and employers. Workers go back to being employed, and businesses save money while often increasing efficiency in the process. The program offers benefits that reduce the cost of doing business and make the worker more appealing at the same time.

Benefits come in a variety of ways. Wage subsidies pay half of the employee’s wages for the first six months the employee is on the job. The worksite creation and modification benefits provide as much as $30,000 to create and modify a work station to fit the employee’s limitations.

Imagine hiring an employee who has a 20-pound weight-lifting limitation. Using worksite modification money, you could buy a forklift to enable the employee to lift necessary items. Now, imagine how much more productive that employee is with the help of the forklift. Also, consider how other staff members could use the same forklift on other shifts when the preferred worker doesn’t need the equipment. Efficiency and profitability can increase dramatically.

Wage subsidies and worksite modifications are just a couple of ways employers and workers can benefit from the program. Others include:

Premium exemption: An employer does not pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums or premium assessments on a preferred worker for three years.
Claim cost reimbursement: This protects the employer from the costs of a new workers’ compensation claim if the preferred worker has a new injury during the three-year premium exemption period.

Employment purchases: This is help needed for a worker to find, accept, or keep employment. Purchases may include:

• Tuition, books, and fees for instruction to update existing skills or build new skills ($1,000 maximum benefit).
• Temporary lodging, meals, and mileage to attend instruction when overnight travel is required ($500 maximum benefit).
• Tools and equipment mandatory for the job, such as tool starter sets ($2,500 maximum benefit).
• Clothing required for the job ($400 maximum benefit).
• Moving expenses for a job within Oregon and more than 50 miles from the preferred worker’s primary residence.
• Initiation fees or back dues and one month’s current dues required by a labor union.
• Occupational certification, licenses, and related testing costs, drug screening, physical examinations, or membership fees required for the job ($500 maximum benefit).
• Placement assistance allows the preferred worker to hire a vocational counselor to help find a job ($2,000 maximum benefit).
• Miscellaneous purchases that do not fit into any other category, excluding a vehicle purchase ($2,500 maximum benefit).

Many businesses in Oregon are neither aware nor taking advantage of this program. Where does your company stand against your competitors? If you are taking advantage of this benefit, your costs can go down. Your productivity can go up. With lower costs and increased productivity, your profits are likely to go up as well.

Don’t let your competition beat you to this competitive advantage. Find out how you can begin hiring preferred workers today. For more information, call 800-445-3948. Our re-employment specialists and worksite modification consultants are here to help your business succeed.