They say the only two sure things in life are death and taxes but we’ll happily throw a third guarantee into the mix. New employee paperwork happens like clockwork, no matter where you’re hired. To legally work in a country like the United States, there are certain documents that must be signed and maintained while you’re employed. While it’s a hassle, new employee paperwork isn’t going anywhere. So to avoid any mistakes, let’s make sure you have a clear understanding of everything you need to know about new employee paperwork.
What is New Employee Paperwork?
New employee paperwork consists of the documents, forms, and agreements that an employee signs before or while they’re working for a company. While some employee documents are standard and must be completed by all employees regardless of industry or position, other documents will be unique to the company.
Why Do Employees Need to Complete the Paperwork?
Employment is regulated by the government. In order to ensure that businesses are hiring people who are legally eligible to work, and to ensure that employees are paying into the tax system, government officials have created documents that must be signed and agreed upon by both parties.
Of course, the specific paperwork will vary depending on the country you live in and the employer you work for, but the fact remains that employees will always have some documents to complete. This article will specifically look at new employee paperwork in the United States of America and will highlight the most common documents and forms. This article is not intended to be completely exhaustive.
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What Documents Do All New Employees Need to Complete?
In the United States, there are two documents that nearly every new employee will need to complete before they begin working. These documents are the Form I-9 and the Form W-4. In addition to these documents, most new employees will also complete a direct deposit form so that their paychecks can be properly routed.
Form I-9: The I-9 form is meant to verify employment eligibility based on identity and legal working status. On the US government website, they state clearly that “all U.S. employers must properly complete Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens.”
An I-9 includes fields that must be completed by the employee and the employer. To comply with the legal requirements, the I-9 must be completed (by both the employee and employer) within three business days of the new employee’s start date.
While the I-9 is not submitted directly to a government entity after its completion, there is a legal requirement for the employer to maintain the file throughout the employee’s tenure. Additionally, employers are required to maintain the I-9 form for three years after the employee’s hire date OR 1 year after the employee’s termination date, whichever is later.
Form W-4: The W-4 form is a tax form that specifies how much to withhold from each paycheck for federal income tax purposes. All employees (whether they be full-time or part-time) should complete a W-4 in order to have their taxes withheld appropriately.
Like the I-9 form, the W-4 form does not need to be submitted to a government agency or entity. However, the information on the form will prove vital to the payroll department of the company. The payroll department must have the W-4 information in order to make the proper tax withholding calculations for each check delivered to the employee.
State Tax Withholding Form: Depending on the state in which your business operates, you may need employees to sign an additional state tax withholding form. These are often referred to as a State W-4.
As of this writing, the following states have separate tax forms for state withholdings: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
The following states do not collect state income tax and therefore do not require state W-4 tax forms: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wyoming.
The remaining states allow the federal W-4 form to be used as the State W-4.
Direct Deposit Form: Unlike the other forms mentioned in this section, the direct deposit form isn’t a government requirement, nor is it a specific form issued by a government entity. However, if employees wish to have their paychecks deposited directly into their bank account (or, if they so desire, they can have the money deposited into multiple accounts) then they’ll need to complete this form.
This form, once completed, should be submitted to the payroll department or service provider.
Eddy automates the new hire paperwork process, saving you time, money, and effort.
Other Common Paperwork for New Employees
Offer Letter: The offer letter is typically sent to a new employee before they are hired. The offer letter will contain details about the offer being made to the employee regarding future employment at the company. The offer will typically include information about salary, signing bonuses, and more. Contrary to popular belief, the offer letter is not a legally binding document (in most instances). Because the vast majority of states allow companies to operate as at-will employers, the company does not have legal obligations to employ the person who accepted their offer.
Background Check: A company may ask an employee to complete paperwork or submit information so that a background check can be conducted. While not required for every position or profession, there are a handful of industries that require background checks to be completed before an employee is eligible to work.
Non-Compete Agreement: A non-compete agreement is a document that a company may have an employee sign which will prohibit the employee from working for a competitor (or starting a competing firm) for a certain period of time after their employment with the current firm is terminated. A typical non-compete agreement will specify the period of time (typically starting with the day the employee is no longer employed at the company) during which an employee is barred from working in a competitive way against their current employer.
Non-Disclosure Agreement: A non-disclosure agreement (also commonly referred to as an NDA) is a legal contract between the employee and employer that prohibits the employee from disclosing confidential information. NDAs are common in business settings as employers often prevent employees from sharing company insights, trade secrets, intellectual property, and other sensitive information.
Employee Handbook: The employee handbook will commonly contain information regarding the employer’s policies, codes of conduct, expected behaviors, compensation, and benefits. It’s possible that some of the documents mentioned in this section are found in the employee handbook. Employers will have employees sign an employee handbook to acknowledge they understand the policies and rules of the company.
Drug/Alcohol Test Agreement: A company may ask employees to submit to the occasional random drug or alcohol test. If this is the case, the employer will have their employees sign an agreement in which they agree to participate in this sort of testing.
Performance Evaluations: This type of form will not typically be completed by a new hire before employment has begun, but may be a recurring form that is used to evaluate performance throughout the employee’s lifecycle with the company. When formal performance evaluations are completed, some employers have employees sign off on what was discussed and agreed upon so as to keep a record of the conversation.
Union Agreements: It’s possible that the employees in your firm or industry belong to unions. In this case, there will be union agreements that must be signed and agreed upon. Employees will want to understand how the union functions, their rights within the union, and the dues that will be required of them.
Health Insurance Forms: If your company offers health insurance, then your new employees will need to complete a form to get enrolled. Health insurance coverage is critical to most employees. Work with your insurance provider to get new employees the coverage they need.
Stock Options Agreement: As part of their compensation package, some employees will negotiate to have stock options or ownership within the company. If your company operates in a way where stock is regularly offered to new employees, you’ll want to have a legally binding form that outlines the stock option agreement and specifies things such as vesting schedules and strike prices.
Other Benefit Agreements: A company may offer a whole assortment of benefits that require certain forms or documents to be signed. If your company offers benefits such as the use of a company vehicle or cell phone, gym access, wellness perks, commuter benefits, 401k matching, tuition reimbursement, or any other benefits similar to these, you should have specific paperwork drawn up for each benefit.
New employee paperwork has been around since the beginning of commerce and will continue until the end of time. A major part of onboarding a new employee will be the time they take to sign all their documents.
Software solutions like EddyHR are creating processes and workflows that make this work easy. EddyHR has electronic signature workflows that plug right into the onboarding process, making document signing and document storage a breeze.
As your business continues to grow, you’ll have more and more new employee paperwork to keep track of. If the process of signing, storing, or creating these documents ever gets overly burdensome or messy, feel to reach out. We’d love to help you get your new employee paperwork managed properly.