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HR Guide to Hiring & Onboarding in California

Hiring and onboarding compliance in the state of California

Aimie Ye

by Aimie Ye - February 4th, 2022


The hiring landscape is already a bumpy road to travel. From getting signatures on the right documents to ensuring taxes are properly reported, compliance leaves no margin for error. California’s additional guidelines add an extra layer of complexity to the process. For HRs who are now hiring across state lines for remote work or expanding into new territories, HRs need to feel more confident than ever when onboarding new employees.

Use this guide to help you hone your hiring and onboarding processes for the California talent market. It’s a whole new level of HR confidence! Read our HR Compliance Guide to learn more.

Download The Ultimate Onboarding Checklist

What New Hire Paperwork Is Required in California?

Paperwork is one of the most important (and most dreaded) parts of hiring a new employee. For HRs, collecting all the right documents is nerve-wracking because you know how important it is to get it right. Like the old saying goes: Incorrect documentation is often worse than no documentation.

In California, the stack of new hire paperwork is a little thicker compared to other states. 

Pending new regulation, employers must provide applicants and employees with a copy of the California Consumer Privacy Act before collecting any personal information about the employee. 

Additional required forms and papers include:

You might consider having the employee verify they received any handouts and papers that don’t require a signature. This could be one extra signed form that lists all the documentation you gave them. They can check off each one, sign the form, then store it in their employee file.

Step-by-Step Hiring Before Day 1

You’ve made an offer, and the candidate accepted! Put that momentum to good use by preparing for your candidate’s arrival. Collecting all the docs and resources they need ahead of time can help you execute a smoother first day and build their excitement about joining the team.

Here are the most essential pre-Day 1 hiring steps you won’t want to skip:

1. Set up payroll

Already having your new hire in your payroll system allows them to clock in on Day 1 as soon as they arrive. This saves you from having to adjust their time later and helps them get acquainted with your timekeeping policies. 

2. Enroll them in your health insurance

If you offer immediate health benefits, you can send out your forms ahead of time so your hire can enjoy coverage on Day 1. This is one fewer form they’ll have to fill out during onboarding, freeing up some time to focus on other things.

3. Prepare access cards or codes

The fine details help to make your employee’s first day a success. One area that’s often overlooked is how you set them up for the rest of their employment, such as building and technology access. Doing this ahead of time shows you’re excited they’re joining the team and that you’ve been expecting them. Think about all of the systems, rooms, and tools your new hire will need to access, then start putting together the keys, cards, and codes they will need.

4. Connect with the candidate’s manager and team

The person your new hire will report to likely already knows you’ve made the hire. But they still need to be kept in the loop about start dates and times. HR can lean on managers to take some of the weight off first-day preparation. Let them prepare the team for the new hire, get the candidate’s workstation ready, and help them feel welcome. 

5. Create an onboarding kit

Employee handbooks, orientation forms, a welcome letter from the CEO—onboarding is faster and smoother when you have everything in one place. Set an agenda for the onboarding experience. Include a tour of the facilities, a meet and greet with various departments and key employees, and some fun and games in between stacks of paperwork.

6. Assign a mentor

Helping your new employee feel at home is a key part of their first-day experience. Before they start, appoint someone to be their mentor for their first few weeks of work. Talking with the mentor ahead of time gives you a chance to share information about the employee (e.g., their job duties, their background, etc.) so the mentor can find effective ways to connect with them. 

Bonus: the mentor might even reach out before Day 1 to introduce themselves!

7. Prepare a company introduction

In this competitive hiring climate, finding great candidates is something to celebrate! Prepare a company-wide announcement that you can send out on Day 1 to introduce your new employees.

Top Priorities on Day 1

When your new hire shows up for their first day, there’s usually a mix of legal formalities and getting to know people and places. But before they can officially start work, HR needs to make sure they fill out all the necessary paperwork. 

Paperwork and Policies

Most of the required new hire paperwork in California can be filled out on the employee’s first day. The exception is the Disability Insurance Provisions (Form DE 2515), which must be provided to the employee within five days of hiring. 

New hire orientation is also a good time to provide any company-specific documents before your employee begins work. For instance, you might require a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect proprietary company information. Additional policies may include:

  • Attendance 

  • Performance reviews

  • Workplace regulations

  • Remote work

  • Training and development

  • Dress code

  • Corporate travel

  • Video surveillance acknowledgment

  • Drug testing forms and policies

Policies like these are usually documented in the employee handbook. It can be helpful to have your employees verify they received a copy of the handbook instead of signing individual policies.

Take an Office Tour

Help your new hires start feeling at home. An office or facilities tour gives them a big picture feel of the company, plus it allows them to meet with various employees.

Treat Your New Hires to Lunch

Hosting a luncheon with your new hires gives them a chance to network with other new and current employees in the company. This is a good time to check in to see how their experience is going so far, answer any questions, and show your excitement to have them on the team.

How to Comply with CA State Employment Standards

California employers need to set the stage for a compliant workplace by ensuring all required posters and notices are available in prominent places. Each poster covers an important employment-related topic, such as labor laws, wages, workplace accidents, and more.

You should regularly check to make sure the following posters are displayed and available to your employees at all times:

  • Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Poster

  • Notice to Employees — Injuries Caused by Work

  • Whistleblower Notice

  • Unemployment Insurance Benefits Notice

  • Paid Sick Leave Poster

  • Payday Notice

  • Emergency Phone Numbers

  • Minimum Wage Poster

  • Safety and Health Protection on the Job Poster

There are a number of other posters that are required by California state law, depending on the industry or type of employer. 

In addition, California workplaces will need to display all federally required posters and notices. These include:

  • Your Rights Under USERRA

  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act Paid Leave Notice

  • Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA)

  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act

  • FLSA Federal Minimum Wage Poster

  • OSHA Job Safety & Health Protection Poster

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Poster

Additional posters may be federally recommended or required depending on industry. See a complete list of required federal and California employment posters here.

CA Payroll and Tax Reporting Requirements

Per California law, employers must report all new or rehired employees within 20 days of their start dates to the New Employee Registry. The start of work date is defined as the employee’s first day of work where services were performed.

All payroll taxes for employees are to be filed electronically through California’s Employment Development Department or other e-file/e-pay options. Here are the important dates and timelines to remember for reporting wages and payroll taxes:

  • Quarterly Contribution Return and Report of Wages (DE 9): Once per quarter.

  • Payroll Tax Deposit (DE 88, which includes UI, SSI, EET, SDI, and CA PIT): Once per month or per quarter, depending on employer’s federal deposit schedule.

How GoCo Supports Hiring & Onboarding in California

HR departments can gain more confidence in hiring and onboarding compliance by using tools that take out much of the guesswork. As an all-in-one HR software, GoCo supports state-specific hiring by staying in tune with current and evolving regulations for paperwork, reporting, and other legal complications. 

Our purpose-built HR automation tools give you a single source for employment forms, checklists, and requirements for employment eligibility and federal and state tax withholdings. You can automate state and federal tax withholdings and avoid the potential for missed deadlines and penalties. Create your own policies and paperwork with Magic Docs and track who has viewed and signed them. All aspects of pre-hiring and onboarding paperwork are automated through GoCo, with workflows aligning with state-specific requirements. Even if you’re based in a different state and hiring employees in California, GoCo puts the right documents in your hands at the right times. Access any form or document you need, collect e-signatures, and report on the fields you collect.

As California or federal regulations change, GoCo automatically updates forms and functions to keep you compliant at all times. 

It’s worry-free, centralized recordkeeping for the modern HR department. Learn more about GoCo’s intelligent onboarding and achieve compliance on Day 1.

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