Return to work

The Preferred Worker Program helps qualified Oregon workers who have permanent disabilities from on-the-job injuries and who are not able to return to their regular employment because of those injuries. Preferred workers can offer Oregon employers a chance to save money by hiring them.​

Who is eligible?

Employers must have and keep Oregon workers’ compensation insurance and follow Oregon workers’ compensation laws. Workers must have an on-the-job injury that keeps them from going back to their regular work and leaves them with permanent restrictions.

What kind of help is available?

Premium exemption: Premium exemption saves an employer the costs of workers’ compensation insurance premiums and premium assessments on a preferred worker for three years. During the premium exemption period, the employer doesn’t report, and the insurer can’t use, the preferred worker’s wages to calculate insurance premiums or premium assessments. To use this benefit, the employer must notify the insurer within 90 days of hiring the preferred worker. Premium exemption is the only benefit the Workers’ Compensation Division does not need to pre-approve.

Claim cost reimbursement: WCD repays an employer’s insurer for costs of a new workers’ compensation claim if a preferred worker files one during the three-year premium exemption period.

Wage subsidy: WCD repays the employer 50 percent of the preferred worker’s wages for 183 days. A preferred worker can use wage subsidy two times — once with two different employers or twice with the same employer for two different jobs.

Employment purchases: Required to help a worker find, accept, or keep a job in Oregon. Purchases may include:

  • Tuition, books, and fees for classes to update existing skills or meet job requirements (up to $1,000)
  • Temporary lodging, meals, and mileage for overnight travel if required to attend classes (up to $500)
  • Tools and equipment required for the job (up to $2,500)
  • Clothing required for the job and not provided by the employer (up to $400)
  • Union initiation fees or dues owed, plus one month’s current dues 
  • Moving expenses for a job in Oregon if the new job is more than 50 miles from the worker’s home 
  • Occupational certification, licenses, and related testing costs (up to $500)
  • Worksite creation costs when an employer creates a new job (up to $5,000)
  • Placement assistance to help a preferred worker find a job (up to $2,000)
  • Miscellaneous other purchases (up to $2,500)

Worksite modification: WCD repays costs of items needed to overcome injury-caused permanent limitations so the worker can do a job. A preferred worker can use modification two times — once with two different employers or twice with the same employer for two different jobs (up to $25,000).​