New hire paperwork checklist to keep you on track

Onboarding a new employee is an exciting process for both the employer and the new hire. You get to welcome a new member to your team and fill a need for your company. However, employee onboarding also includes a lot of important paperwork, which can be tough to keep track of without an organized new hire paperwork checklist.

We’ve created the below onboarding checklist to help you understand each required piece of paperwork and create an organized onboarding packet. Having an onboarding packet (or digital portal) prepared before the new hire’s first day can help you create a more seamless onboarding experience.

Offer letter

The offer letter is generally the first piece of new hire paperwork created when onboarding a new employee. It is drafted and sent out prior to the employee even beginning the onboarding process or accepting the role.

The offer letter provides key information about the job offer such as the new hire’s proposed title, start date, and pay rate. It can also include information on their key job duties, who they will be reporting to, vacation or PTO, work location, and other relevant information. If you aren’t sure how to create an offer letter, take a look at these offer letter templates from Workable and customize them to fit your company’s needs.

It’s common to go through several offer letter versions if the employee negotiates their pay or needs to adjust their start date. Once you have a finalized and signed offer letter, it should be added to the new hire’s employee file along with a copy of the job description for the role.

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Background check authorizations

The background check authorization form allows you to run a background check on the employee. This is often done after the offer letter is signed, with the offering being contingent on successfully passing a background check. Though sometimes background check authorization is part of the employment application.

You may need multiple background check authorization forms if you run several background checks such as a driving history, credit check, and criminal background check.

Be sure to retain the background check authorization forms in the new hire’s employee file as well as any other required disclosures or documents related to the background check process. Depending on the type of check performed and the region you hire in, there can be a lot of strict rules around background checks and how they may be used, so you’ll want to maintain any documentation showing that you followed the process properly.

I-9 form

From a compliance perspective, Form I-9 is one of the most important documents in the new hire paperwork process, this form is for employment eligibility verification. The I-9 form must be signed and completed within three business days of the new hire’s start date, so human resources staff need to track this portion of the checklist carefully.

The employee can complete their section of the I-9 form by providing their legal name, social security number, address, and signature. Then, a member of your staff or an authorized representative must review the employee’s identifying documents and sign off that they have seen them. These documents are typically a Driver’s License, Passport, birth certificate, and/or social security card.

If you’re hiring a remote employee, completing the verification section of the I-9 may seem difficult, but in reality, almost anyone can act as an authorized representative and sign the form as long as they see the verifying documents in person. That being said, the employer is still liable for any compliance violations related to the I-9 form.

If you allow a new remote employee to have a local friend, neighbor, or family member sign the form, you should also request scanned copies or images of the documents as a secondary verification measure (and for your records).

Many employers use the information provided on the I-9, such as the employee’s legal name and social security number, to participate in E-Verify. E-Verify verifies the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees by electronically matching the information provided by employees against records available to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Not all employers need to participate in E-Verify, but is required if your business has federal contracts or operates in a state that requires it.

W-4 form and state tax withholding form

IRS Form W-4 is another important form that should be completed within the employee’s first few days with your company. The W-4 form determines how much money the employer needs to withhold from employees’ paychecks for federal income tax.

You’ll also need a state withholding form to determine what to withhold for state income taxes, if applicable. Not all states have state income taxes or withholding forms.

Direct deposit form

Most employees prefer to receive their paychecks through direct deposit rather than a paper check. In order to deposit their pay each payroll cycle, you’ll need new hires to complete a direct deposit form. Check with your payroll provider on whether there is a standardized form or online direct deposit enrollment page.

It is also common for employers to ask for a voided check along with the form to verify the correct bank account information, though that is not always required.

Employee handbook acknowledgment form

The Employee Handbook Acknowledgement Form should also be given to new hires, generally on their first day of employment, along with a copy of the employee handbook. This form requires the new hire to acknowledge that they’ve received a copy of the handbook and understand that they are responsible for reading and complying with the company policies detailed within the handbook.

Additional policy acknowledgments

It’s also worthwhile for human resources and the other department leads to discuss whether any other policies need to be acknowledged individually, such as important IT or safety policies.

It is also fairly common to require a signature on the at-will employment policy to ensure that employees understand that they are being employed at will.

New hire questionnaire/ emergency contact form

The new hire questionnaire is typically made by the employer and customized based on their needs. The purpose of the questionnaire is to collect any extra information that you need from the employee. It often includes employee contact information.

Emergency Contact information is commonly included on the new hire questionnaire, though some employers elect to create a separate emergency contact form. Having an emergency contact on file is important so that employers have someone to contact if the employee is injured or gets seriously ill at work and is taken to the hospital. Typically you just need a name and phone number for a couple of people that can act as the new employee’s emergency contact.

Some employers also use the questionnaire to collect information on allergies and dietary restrictions. This can be helpful to have on file for catered office lunches, work events, or employee gifts throughout the year.

Feel free to customize the new hire form with any specific information that will be relevant to your company and practices (as long as you’re not asking any inappropriate or illegal questions).

Benefits enrollment paperwork

The new hire paperwork packet generally includes some benefits information and paperwork, though many employers do not allow employees to enroll for 90 days after their start date.

An overview of the employee benefits, including explanations of the different health insurance plans offered and eligibility guidelines is a good place to start. You can include all of the enrollment paperwork in the onboarding packet. However, you should allow the employee plenty of time to make selections, particularly if they won’t be eligible for several months.

Be sure to also include information on stock options, special perks like discounted gym memberships or home office equipment purchase reimbursements, FSAs, and any other benefits offered. It can help to create an overview sheet with all of the available employee benefits to include in the new employee forms packet.

Non-disclosure or non-compete agreements as needed

Depending on your industry, it may make sense to include non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or non-compete agreements on your new hire paperwork checklist. Though these aren’t always required or necessary.

NDAs are common in industries and roles where trade secrets need to be protected. A trade secret can be a recipe, code, or information about a product or feature in development. This is typically to prevent an employee that leaves your company from sharing your confidential trade secrets with their next employer or leaking information to the media.

Non-compete agreements prevent the employee from directly competing with your business for a period of time after they leave your company. These are less common and in some cases challenging to enforce, but they are still an option. They can be helpful if you run a specialized business in a smaller area and do not want employees using the training that you provide to them to open a competing business in your area.