What is the Preferred Worker Program (PWP)?
The Preferred Worker Program (PWP) encourages the re-employment of 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. The program is funded by worker and employer contributions to the Workers’ Benefit Fund.
What is a preferred worker?
A preferred worker is a person who has work skills, work experience, and a desire to return to work after an on-the-job injury. A person is designated a preferred worker because he or she has some measure of permanent disability due to an on-the-job injury. Because of the injury, the preferred worker can’t return to regular work, at least not without modification. Preferred workers have identification cards that show employers they are eligible to offer Preferred Worker Program benefits.
are the program benefits?
All Preferred Worker Program benefits must be reviewed and approved by the division, except
premium exemption. Contact the division if you need further information.
exemption: An employer does not pay workers’ compensation insurance premiums or premium
assessments on a preferred worker for three years. Contact your insurer within 90 days of
hiring a preferred worker to activate premium exemption.
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.
The employer receives 50 percent wage subsidy reimbursement for the preferred worker for
six months. Wage subsidy may be used two times, once each for two different employers or
twice with the same employer for two different jobs.
modification: Modifications can include tools, equipment, and worksite redesign needed
to overcome injury-caused limitations so the preferred worker can do the job. It may be
used once with two different employers or twice with the same employer for two different
jobs ($25,000, maximum benefit).
purchases: This is help needed for a worker to find, accept, or keep employment. Purchases
• Tuition, books, and fees for instruction to update existing skills or build new skills ($1,000,
• 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
• 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).
• Worksite creation costs to help an employer create a new job for the preferred worker ($5,000,
• Placement assistance allows the preferred worker to hire a vocational counselor to help
find a job ($2,000, maximum benefit). See Bulletin 151 for a list of certified vocational
• Miscellaneous purchases that do not fit into any other category, excluding a vehicle purchase
($2,500, maximum benefit).
As an injured worker, why should I care about being a preferred worker?
As an injured worker, it may be hard to find work following recovery from your injury. The Preferred Worker Program allows injured workers to offer unique hiring incentives to Oregon employers. Preferred Worker Program benefits are available to your employer at injury or a new employer (in Oregon), or both. Most of the benefits can be used with two different employers.
As an employer, can I take advantage of this program?
You are eligible to use the Preferred Worker Program benefits if you are hiring a preferred worker for an Oregon
job. You must keep Oregon workers’ compensation insurance and follow Oregon workers’ compensation
laws. The Small Business Ombudsman for workers’ compensation has good news about how hiring
a preferred worker will affect your workers’ compensation policy and what
to do if the preferred worker will be your only employee. Go to Job
Match to find a preferred worker with the skills you need.
When does Preferred Worker Program eligibility start?
Normally, the process of becoming a preferred worker automatically begins when the claim closes, if the workers’ compensation claim is accepted, if the worker has permanent disability as a result of an on-the-job injury in Oregon, and if the worker can’t return to regular work. If this sounds like you, but you did not receive a preferred worker identification card, call the Preferred Worker Program at 800-445-3948 (toll-free).
How are worksite modifications and employment purchases paid?
There are two ways to pay for worksite modification or employment purchases. The employer
or worker can purchase the required items and get reimbursed from the division. To get reimbursed,
the employer or worker must send the division a copy of the receipt or other proof the items
If you want
to avoid out-of-pocket expenses, the division can issue an Authorization for Payment (AFP)
to vendors who will accept it. The AFP assures the vendor that the division will pay for
the authorized equipment and tells the vendor how to obtain payment. Many Oregon vendors
accept the AFP.
How do I apply for a “preferred worker only” workers’ compensation insurance policy?
If you currently do not have workers' compensation insurance and the first employee you hire
is a preferred worker, then you can purchase a preferred worker policy through the National
Council Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
For more information contact:
Employment Services Team: 503-947-7588 or 800-445-3948 (toll-free)