Best Practices for Achieving Talent Success Maturity

A New-hire Compliance Checklist

  • Who it’s for: 
    HR managers
  • What you’ll get: 
    An essential checklist of necessary forms and documents for a new hire
  • Why you need it: 
    For consistent onboarding and compliance
  • When it applies in the talent success process: 
    Offer acceptance through onboarding

Building a team of A-players is as much about retaining them as it is about recruiting them. Though most of the work in onboarding will be focused on best practices for engaging employees, you first need to make sure you meet the core compliance standards for onboarding every new employee. This article will walk you through a checklist of what you need to know to do that.

Having a checklist for new-hire packets, or an inventory of the tasks an HR manager needs to perform, helps ensure consistency, efficiency, and compliance with onboarding. Because some compliance mandates need to be covered within a certain number of days of the employee’s hire date, it’s important to have a thorough process in place.

This article identifies a list of key items you’ll want to make sure are taken care of after the employee accepts the offer, and other items to do on or very soon after their first day.

Compliance Items When the Offer Is Accepted

Although the hiring manager is typically the primary point of contact in the later stages of the recruiting process (e.g., during final interviews and selection), HR usually steps back in when it’s time to make a job offer. Here are the compliance items HR needs to be aware of at this stage — the offer stage — of the recruiting process.

Be Sure the Offer Letter Is Legally Compliant

An offer letter, or welcome letter, is not legally required. It is, however, considered a best practice. An offer letter should typically contain:

  • The new employee’s job title
  • The new employee’s salary
  • Whether the employee has exempt or nonexempt status
  • The expected start date
  • HR contact information
  • The contact information of the hiring manager or direct supervisor

There are two important aspects to offer letters to note. First, it’s usually considered a good idea to include nondisclosure and noncompete information, if it applies to the candidate.

Additionally, offer letters should have explicit language that they are not a contract. The employment will not be at will and can be terminated at any time. This needs to be explained upfront.

Learn more about the elements of a great offer letter, and get a template for efficiently creating consistent, compliant offer letters, in our article “Create Killer, Ready-to-Use Offer Letters”.

Compliance Checklist: After the Offer and Before the First Day of Work

Regardless of the time between the date a candidate accepts your offer and their first day on the job, HR needs to address a handful of onboarding compliance items. The goal is to ensure a smooth and engaging welcome for the new employee and legal compliance for the company. It will vary by company whether HR or the hiring manager walks through the compliance steps, although many companies assign the compliance elements to HR and the more relationship-driven elements to the eventual boss of the new hire.

Six Key Compliance Items Before the First Day on the Job

1. Employee Information Form

This can be a simple, one-page form. It usually asks for contact information, a current mailing address, emergency contacts, special health or dietary requirements (these can be useful when planning event catering), and date of birth.

2. Tax withholding and eligibility forms

In the U.S., the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security require all new hires to verify their eligibility to work in the country. Within their first 48 hours on the job, a new hire must complete two forms: a W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and an I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Many states also require their own version of the W-4, or offer it as an option for calculating state income tax withholding.

3. E-Verify

Offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, E-Verify is a partially voluntary program for verifying the employment eligibility of new hires. Compliance with the E-Verify mandates is slightly complicated due to varying federal and state requirements. At the federal level, most companies with federal contracts are obligated to participate. Participation is voluntary for other employers. About 20 states have their own rules. Some require E-Verify use by all or most employers, and others restrict the mandate to state agencies and contractors. A full map of E-Verify rules by state is available here.

4. Work Opportunity Tax Credit screening

The federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program offers tax incentives for employers who hire workers from a variety of qualifying backgrounds, including summer youth employees, recipients of food stamps or SSI, and disabled veterans.

5. Disability and veteran information

Some new hires may have backgrounds that place them in categories that are protected from employment discrimination or require accommodations under the ADA or other federal labor laws. In the case of veterans, benefits may be available to the employer. This information needs to be treated with confidentiality. New adjustments to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Individuals with Disabilities (503 regulations) went into effect in March 2014.

6. Employee handbook and signoff sheet

Your employee handbook can cover everything from your company history and culture to a checklist for helping the new hire set up their workspace, as well as the best places near the office to grab lunch. But at a minimum it should include your company’s rules and regulations for employees to follow, such as dress code and social media usage, as well as grievance or disciplinary procedures, and security and building access guidelines. Provide a printed copy, or access to a printable file. Include a signoff form for the new hire to acknowledge receipt of the handbook.