One Oregon company uses state and charitable funding to hire and train workers, add a sales position and upgrade their company cars.
One of the biggest stigmas in the cleaning industry surrounds hiring injured workers. No business likes to hire previously injured workers because of the risk of workers compensation insurance rates going up. 

What if I told you that hiring previously injured workers is a growth strategy not many businesses are taking into consideration. Thousands of businesses pass up growth opportunities due to fear. You could be saving thousands in wages, worker compensation rates and even work creation costs by hiring a previously injured worker. 

At Mess Maid Right NW, we don’t keep poor performers long, and the only way to keep the business going when we need to release workers who don’t change their ways is to be on an “always hiring” roll. We constantly run our hiring ads, and that is how we came to hiring our first previously injured worker through the State of Oregon’s Preferred Worker’s Program as well as gaining an entirely new in-house sales & marketing position.

I was reviewing cover letters and resumes for a house cleaning tech position one Saturday morning when I came across Jack’s cover letter:

“Dear Hiring Manager, I’m on the Preferred Workers of Oregon list which offers many benefits to the employer that hires me.” 

How often do you hear employer benefits? Not knowing exactly what this program was, I dropped the letter and researched this program I’ve never heard about. 

What is the Preferred Worker Program (PWP)?

The Oregon 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, but still have work skills, work experience, and a desire to return to work after an on-the-job injury.

Other states with a PWP include Washington and North Dakota.

What are some of the benefits of hiring a preferred worker? 

Premium exemption: An employer does not pay workers compensation insurance premiums or premium assessments on a preferred worker for three years. Business owners must contact their insurer within 90 days of hiring a preferred worker to activate premium exemption or as the State requires. 

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.

Wage subsidy:
The employer receives 50% 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.

Worksite modification: Modifications can include tools, equipment, and work-site 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).

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). 
  • Occupational certification, licenses, and related testing costs, drug screening, physical examinations, or membership fees required for the job ($500 maximum benefit). This can include the IICRC House Cleaning Technician certification course and examination.
  • Worksite creation costs to help an employer create a new job for the preferred worker ($5,000, maximum benefit)
  • Miscellaneous purchases that do not fit into any other category, excluding a vehicle purchase ($2,500, maximum benefit).

What is it like getting started with PWP?

The application process when hiring a preferred worker is typically fairly easy. Both the employer and future employee sign for the items necessary to perform the job. Creating a new position comes with a few challenges as there are a lot of other factors that affect the position is being created. Usually, those difficulties include creating systems and protocols the new employee must adhere by. The budget is fair though and a lot of these items can be easily covered by hiring a professional to help the employer with any difficulty. One of the first items on our list was creating a Safety Manual for Office Staff since we didn’t have one. An additional benefit would be the use of the manual as additional office staff gets added. 

A clear picture of knowing where your business will be financially after wage subsidy ends is also very important. A defined pay scale, whether hourly or commission based, needs to be established and explored prior to employment to avoid any unpleasant surprises. 

What other business growth assistance can you look for?

Coupling a state program with other beneficial programs such as a Matched Business Grants with an Individual Development Account (IDA) via Mercy Corps is also a great way to skyrocket business growth. Mercy Corps provides a specific IDA for starting or growing a small business. They have several options; two of their most popular: 

Option 1: Participants save $1,000 for a minimum of 6 months. Receive match grant of $3,000, for a total of $4,000.

Option 2: Participants save $2,000 for a minimum of 1 year. Receive match grant of $6,000, for a total of $8,000. You will use the total to buy fixed business assets. 

IDAs are meant to be used to acquire the skills necessary for an individual to successfully start or grow a business, so you have to show that you are a business in good standing and take some classes for before you can choose an option and receive matching funds. 

For Mess Maid Right NW, we are currently using Option 1 to replace one of our first company vehicles with a much newer one. 

What’s next for Mess Maid Right NW?

We continue to hire new cleaning technicians through the PWP and are in the process of developing our sales & marketing position, also through the PWP. And we’re currently saving our second $1000 to acquire another updated car for our fleet.

One of our goals for 2015 has been to advance our business education and growth, and we are actively implementing new and revised systems to improve our success. We can’t wait to see the fruit of all the different forces that we have in the works. 

Denisse and Craig Baker own and operate Mess Maid Right NW in in Portland, OR and enjoy rapid and consistent growth. They are members of ARCSI, graduates of Foundations of Success, and a Chapter Member of Cleaning for a Reason.