New Employee Forms: Ultimate Guide for Small Businesses
This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
New employee forms are electronic or paper documents that capture new hire information such as address, tax withholdings, and work eligibility. New hire forms—like W-4s, I-9s, and job applications—ensure your business is compliant with labor laws and make it easier for you to manage scheduling, communication, and payroll processing.
Below, we take a closer look at the most common compliance, employment policy, company-specific, and employee experience forms your small business will need for new hires.
Employment Policy Forms
Employee Experience Forms
Compliance forms are documents that you may be required to send or show to a government agency in case of an audit. They fall into three primary categories—those required by the IRS, by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), and in support of labor laws. Examples include:
- IRS forms for state and federal tax withholdings (e.g., W-4 and W-9)
- Employment eligibility form (I-9)
- State-specific disclosures and state new hire reporting
Compliance forms can be found on government websites such as IRS.gov. In addition, many states offer an employer website that contains all the required compliance forms you need if you employ workers in that state. However, it starts to get complicated if you have workers in multiple states with varying requirements. For example, some states have their own tax withholding forms that are different from the W-4.
In most cases, your payroll provider can supply you with the forms you need in these states. If you use HR software or work with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), this is likely done automatically through the software. If you don’t have a payroll provider, you can find the following new employee forms and compile them yourself using the links below.
A W-4 is a federal tax withholding form that tells you how much to withhold from an employee’s paycheck in taxes. Employees are required to complete this form prior to the first payroll.
As a federal identity verification (employment verification) form; employees are required to complete the I-9 form per the department of homeland security. By the employee’s third day on the job, they must provide documentation proving that they’re legally able to work in the US. In most cases, a driver’s license and social security card (or a US passport) can be provided as documentation.
The federal tax form used for independent contract employees is the W-9. It’s used to gather tax information about non-employee workers who receive payments of $600 or more in a year.
The state new hire reporting form is completed and sent to an individual state to document that you’ve hired a new employee. It’s used for statistical data and child-support. Most states require the information be provided to the state within 20 days of hiring a new team member.
Employment policy forms are additional new hire documents gathered during the onboarding process. They protect your business in case of an employment dispute and make your policies and expectations clear.
The employee handbook describes all employee policies, from time keeping to sick leave. The handbook should also cover at-will employment.
The signed offer letter is a document that is signed by the employee to show they agree to the job role, title, start date, pay and benefits. You should receive the signed offer letter before you provide the employee with any new hire paperwork.
A signed employment contract (or agreement) confirms the work agreement for management, executive and contractors; including penalties for non-performance. This is similar to the signed offer letter but in more detail.
An NCA protects your business by preventing the worker from competing with your company, during or after they terminate employment. This document will ensure that your employees will not use the knowledge they have received to work for another company that is in direct competition with your business.
Also known as a confidentiality agreement, an NDA protects your business by preventing workers from sharing confidential proprietary information. This agreement ensures that your employees are not providing trade secrets to competitors.
Benefits enrollment documents allow employees to sign up for healthcare or insurance benefits. Additionally, it gathers information on the employee and their dependents for the direct purpose of enrollment.
By having a non-discrimination policy that is signed by all employees, the company can clearly spell out its policy on discrimination. It provides documentation against any type of discrimination within the workplace.
A sexual harassment policy educates employees about the company policy regarding sexual harassment. This policy can be stand-alone and signed by each employee, or it can be part of the company handbook.
There are some new employee forms that you may need to add to your new hire paperwork depending on the size of your business, your industry, or your specific-company needs. You can gather these before or during orientation or include them in your new hire checklist.
Testing and background checks may be required in certain industries: i.e., education, healthcare, banking. If you do background checks, you should save the results in a secure location as they can protect your business in case of a lawsuit claiming unfair hiring practices.
Drug tests are used to assure your workplace remains drug-free. They can be industry specific: i.e., healthcare, transportation, or optional.
A direct deposit form is used to collect employees’ bank account information for payroll purposes. These forms include routing numbers and bank account numbers, and can include distribution amounts that determine how much money goes into each account for employees at the time of payroll.
A job application is collected to provide basic information on applicants. It protects you in case of a charge of hiring discrimination, and provides employee background, employment history, and contact data.
These are optional employee forms that improve the employee experience, on the job performance, and work culture. These new hire forms aren’t required by law but are used instead to create a great impression on the new hire and improve your overall employment brand.
A goal setting form is used to gather employee goals and track progress. This can motivate employees, as well as help them discover ways to earn employee recognition.
An employee evaluation form is used to evaluate employee performance; usually monthly, quarterly, or yearly. New hires should fill these out when they begin as a basemark for their performance.
An orientation checklist gives employees insight into their first days on the job. Providing a copy to the employee helps them keep track of what is expected.
A schedule and availability document is for employers that offer flex work schedules or allow employees to choose their shift preferences. It is a form that employees can use to share those preferences.
An assessment can give you insight into an employee’s work behaviors and style. Data can be gathered using assessment tools like DISC or Myers Briggs.
This is “nice to know” data about the employee; may include their birthday, favorite food, and dream job. You can gather this information using a simple MS Word or MS Excel spreadsheet.
Getting a new hire started on a path to success is important for employee retention. It is also essential from an employer branding standpoint.
You will need a place to store all of these new employee forms—either in file folders (which we don’t recommend) or virtually, with free document storage using an HR/payroll system, like Rippling. Then, when it’s time to file your taxes, you will have everything in one place for your accountant. In fact, if you use any of our recommended payroll software, tax filing should be done automatically.
If you’re planning to run your first payroll, we recommend reading about the payroll process. If you need assistance running payroll, Rippling can help create, send, and file W-2s and 1099s; securely store all completed forms online; and make it easy to report new hires to appropriate state agencies.
What New Employee Forms Cost
Using our forms above, government-provided PDF forms, or samples found online, you can gather and prepare most of your new employee forms for free. Then, you can modify and print them for the cost of the paper and ink. However, some businesses prefer to outsource HR to a third party to ensure that all their new hire forms are in order, customized, and legal.
Some of the costs to consider are:
- HR Software: Often, standard forms are built into HR software. For anywhere from $1–$15 per month, per employee, you can get the forms and an automated workflow with e-signature and online storage.
- HR Professional: Hiring an HR professional can cost from $50 per hour to $5,000 for a startup package of new hire forms and documents; that often includes an employee handbook.
- Legal: You can hire a small business lawyer to review your downloaded forms. This service typically costs by the project or by the hour. For example, LegalZoom charges $39–$99 per document to review business forms and policies. However, you could pay significantly more if you have an attorney draft and provide the forms for you.
- Do It Yourself: This is the easiest, lowest cost option, but it may be time-intensive. Depending on your level of HR experience, you or your administrative assistant may be able to download the forms we provide and customize them for little or no cost other than time-spent.
- Document Management: The cheapest way to manage the documents is to drop them into an employee personnel file that’s kept in a secure file folder. However, a better (and more searchable) option is to store them online such as on your secure network, or in a Google Workspace account. Of course, if you use HR or payroll software, like Rippling, documents will be stored online.
The forms themselves cost little to nothing. Ensuring they’re legally compliant may cost a bit more if you create your own documents and hire someone to track and manage them.
New Hire Forms Guidelines
If you’re creating forms from scratch or customizing forms you’ve found online, consider ensuring your forms follow the guidelines below. This provides professionalism, ensures you have the latest version of the forms, and makes them easier to find.
- Name each form. This is often provided by a government agency, like the I-9 or W-4 form. However, if you create your own forms, such as to capture an employee’s emergency contact information, it’s best to add the name of the form at the top, and perhaps provide a footer showing the form name and revision date in case you need to modify it.
- Fill the forms out correctly. The most common mistake made on new hire compliance forms is not filling them in correctly, according to the instructions provided by the relevant government agency. Additionally, a common mistake on other forms is including information that is not legally compliant, such as listing a person’s gender or prior salary on a job application form. Those may be discoverable in a lawsuit and show proof of discrimination or pay equity issues.
- Help employees understand why a form is used. Each form should have a brief explanation attached. For instance, if you request bank account and routing information from your employees, it’s best to explain that the reason you’re doing it is so that you can set them up for direct deposit.
- Store the forms properly. Some documents are fine to store in an employee’s personnel folder where managers have access. Other forms, like I-9 employment eligibility forms, should be kept separate to prevent confidential employee information from being viewed.
- Retain your completed forms. Document retention varies by government agency and often by state. For example, 401(k) enrollment docs need to be kept for six years after an employee terminates, but a new hire offer letter or other salary data need only be kept three years.
- Update your new employee forms regularly. Tax and other labor laws change regularly, at both the state and federal level, and sometimes even at the local level. For example, California requires extensive paid sick leave and many states make it illegal to ask job candidates about prior pay or criminal convictions. Therefore, it’s best to take a look at both your forms and your employee handbook each year to make sure they remain compliant.
New employee forms are a necessary part of the hiring process. There are a few forms that are required by law (compliance forms) and ensure your business is compliant in terms of gathering data that federal, state, and local government requests. Other necessary forms include those that are used to collect information needed for payroll, medical benefits enrollment, background checks, and enrollment in insurance benefits.
Take precaution to ensure you have completed all required compliance forms and are properly reporting them to the correct agency. Additionally, it is wise to retain signed policies and data information for each employee. This ensures you have the correct information to process benefits, payroll, and other items important to your small business.