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New Hire Paperwork & Onboarding Forms 2024

New hire paperwork includes documents that ensure compliance with state and national law as well as internal policies such as the employee handbook.

Anna Coucke

by Anna Coucke - December 20th, 2023


Any new hire at your company has to go through a series of formalities before becoming an official employee. New hire paperwork is one of those, and it can be tedious for both the employee and the HR manager who has to onboard a number of employees each month. That's why having the proper forms and a standard onboarding process in order is critical to a successful onboarding experience.

Why is an Onboarding Plan Crucial?

Some documents, especially legal ones, must be included in your new-hire paperwork package to ensure compliance with state and federal employment laws. A number of government agencies, such as the IRS, the United States Department of Labor, and the Department of Homeland Security, have guidelines that help you create a set of legal documents for income tax and similar obligations.

Other documents, such as the employee handbook and the company policy forms, are very specific to your company. You can take your time sending them to employees. In fact, it's a good idea to introduce this paperwork gradually in the onboarding process.

Here are some details about vital elements to keep in mind when putting together new hire paperwork.

Download The Ultimate Onboarding Checklist

Pre-Employment New Hire Forms

Before a new hire can begin work on their first day, there are several documents that must be gathered and signed. 

Offer Letter

This letter follows the employer's acceptance of the candidate's application. The written offer letter contains vital information regarding the employee's job terms, such as:

  • The job type

  • Compensation

  • Company benefits

  • Start Date

If the employee accepts the provisions of the offer letter, they must sign it and send it to the business for filing.

Need help creating your own? Download our free example offer letter template!

Background Check Authorization Form

If it is part of your company policy, one of the first forms you will need to have signed by new hires is a background check authorization. The background check report itself usually does not go into great detail and just informs you whether the candidate passed or failed. You may include a copy of the background check in the employee's file if you complete the check and hire the person. 

Drug Testing Consent Form

If your organization requires a preliminary drug test for new hires, the new hire will need to sign a form of consent that allows the collection of urine or saliva and the release of the resulting drug and alcohol test report to the company.

Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9)

Form I-9 confirms a prospective employee's employment eligibility and legal authority. Many employers are required to keep this document, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

It has sections for employees and employers, with employees having to complete by the first day of work. Employers must physically examine the employee's identification documents and complete the form within three days after the employee starts work.

It's essential to read the guidelines to ensure compliance, as non-compliance can result in significant penalties. You must retain an employee's I-9 for three years after their hire date or one year after the employee’s termination (whichever is later). I-9 forms should be kept separate from other personnel documents.

You can download form I-9 from the IRS.

You'll also need to use the E-Verify system to verify employment eligibility in the US. Be sure to check the legislation in your state and complete all necessary forms within the deadlines to avoid penalties.

Federal Tax Forms (Form W-4)

Form W-4 is a tax reporting document. New workers must fill out this form according to the IRS. The W-4 instructs you on how much to withhold from an employee's pay to pay the proper federal income tax. Every new employee should fill out this form and submit a revision if they need to change their withholding.

You must retain an employee's W-4 form for 4 years.

You can download form W-4 from the IRS website.

State Tax Withholding Form (If Applicable)

States with a state income tax will require a separate state-specific W-4 form in addition to the federal form. These forms vary by state, so make sure you have new hires fill one out if required by your state.

Equal Opportunity Data Form

An equal opportunity (EEO) data form is required by all private-sector employers with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with 50 or more employees meeting certain criteria. It is a document that can help employees understand how you hire. Many firms include a digital version of the EEO-1 Survey as part of the application process.

New Employee Benefits Forms

If you offer employee benefits, you must give each new hire paperwork that includes the terms and conditions for said benefits. You need to document benefits from within and for taxation purposes if you provide them.

These advantages will differ depending on your organization, company size and the kind of benefits you provide, but the most common benefits include:

  • Health insurance

  • Life insurance

  • Retirement plans such as 401(k)

  • Stock options

  • Health, wellness, and care benefits (gym memberships, mental health programs etc.)

  • PTO and sick leaves

  • Eventual tuition reimbursement

  • Disability insurance

Direct Deposit Form

Many employees choose to have their money transferred immediately into their bank accounts. A direct deposit form authorizes the employer to deposit money into the employee's bank account regularly. The employer needs the form on file to finish the transaction. 

Company Policies and Agreements

The forms listed below are necessary for success in onboarding new staff, although they are generally not requirements of any state, federal, or other regulatory entities. Each company will have different requirements for these forms, but these are some of the most common ones.

Employment Contract or Employment Agreement

An employment agreement outlines the rights and duties of both you and your employees. It will include any particular requirements related to your hiring process and will be more extensive than an offer letter.

Employment contracts are not required for most positions in right-to-work states. You may want to check with your legal counsel if you are unsure if and when you need a contract. Required or not, we recommend sending one with the job offer and giving employees a chance to examine and sign it.

The employment contract should include:

  • Job information

  • Length of employment

  • Work schedule

  • Employee responsibilities

  • Compensation and benefits

  • Conditions for possible termination

Employee Handbook Acknowledgment

An employee handbook includes human resources and legal information, corporate regulations, company benefits and perks, and information about your operations. It would be best to give this handbook to employees early so they can examine and sign an acknowledgment of receipt.

Policy Acknowledgments

Have new hires evaluate and sign off on any other policies not listed in your handbook on their first day. Include it with your new hire documentation if you have a written policy about internet activity or security and confidentiality.

  • A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) protects proprietary information in a business. New employees may have access to a company's business plans, employee contact information, client information, and other confidential information. A non-disclosure agreement requires them to promise to maintain confidentiality.

  • A non-compete agreement safeguards a firm against employees who leave one company to work for another in the same field. A non-compete agreement forbids an employee from working for a direct rival for a specific time and in one geographic area.

  • A code of conduct outlines the rules, values, standards, and principles expected of employees within an organization.

Emergency Contact Information

It's good to keep all employees' emergency contact information on file. This straightforward form includes the contact's name, phone number, email address, and relation to the employee.

You can also request your new hires’ personal details for a variety of health and safety purposes. These can include known allergies or dietary restrictions (such as gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegan, vegetarian, etc.)

Remember not to sound too intrusive on the paperwork when asking for employees’ personal data. Simply ask them to fill in all the details that would help you assist them or contact them directly (or indirectly), in case of an emergency.

Other Miscellaneous Forms

Depending on your organization and situation, there are a few other forms that may be necessary for new hires to fill out.

  • A parking permit and/or keycard application if you work in an office building that requires an application and/or acknowledgment.

  • An IT equipment agreement form allows employees to use company equipment such as laptops and phones while working in the field or at home and requires them to acknowledge that the equipment is company property and must be used appropriately and returned.

New Hire Paperwork and Compliance by State

Depending on the state you are hiring in, there may be state-specific forms, processes, and requirements that you must follow. These can include:

  • State new hire reporting

  • State income tax forms

  • State-specific employment laws

How to Automate Your Onboarding

Hiring new employees is expensive – with the SHRM reporting the average new hire costing $4,683 – so you want to ensure that your onboarding process will allow new hires to hit the ground running and be set up for long-term success. Automating your onboarding ensures that the process is seamless and effective.

If you are looking to level up your onboarding process and tools, GoCo offers a variety of features that make onboarding easy, efficient, and impactful for employees and managers alike, including:

  • Digitized onboarding documents and e-signatures

  • Self-service benefits enrollments

  • Customizable templates

Ready to see what GoCo can do for you? Take a free tour of our platform today!

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Onboarding Paperwork FAQs

New hire paperwork is necessary to comply with federal and state laws, verify employment eligibility, enroll employees in benefits programs, and establish essential employment policies and work agreements.

The most important forms that new hires need to fill out include Form W-4 for tax withholding, Form I-9 for employment eligibility verification, and any employer-specific forms for benefits enrollment, direct deposit setup, and emergency contacts.

HR departments can ensure that new hire paperwork is completed accurately and on time by creating clear instructions and deadlines for completion, providing access to digital forms and document management tools, and designing a streamlined onboarding process.

Yes, new hire paperwork can be completed digitally using electronic signature and form management platforms. This streamlines the paperwork process and improves accuracy and compliance by automatically validating data and saving records.

If a new hire fails to complete the required paperwork, it can result in delayed and incomplete benefits enrollment, incorrect tax withholding, and compliance violations. HR departments should communicate the consequences of non-compliance and establish a process for managing outstanding paperwork.

Updated 12/20/2023

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