Starting a new job can be stressful, especially when new hires don’t know what to expect. A comprehensive new hire packet will help ease the first-day jitters by clarifying those expectations and providing employees with all the information they need on day one.

Your new hire packet should provide new employees with all the forms they need to complete for hiring and payroll purposes. It streamlines the onboarding process so employees get started as quickly and painlessly as possible. You can give employees their new hire packets physically or electronically, depending on how your company keeps track of paperwork.

However, the hiring packet should contain more than just paperwork to be filled out. It’s one of the first things your new employee will receive from you — use it to introduce the employee to your company culture and welcome them to the team. After all, you only get one chance to make a good impression on their first day.

Welcome Letter

A welcome letter will put your new hire at ease while providing a glimpse into your company’s culture. The greeting should be enthusiastic and fun while also answering top-of-mind questions.

Say that you’re looking forward to your new employee’s arrival and the contributions they will make to the team. Go over the company’s key values and mission, as well as their team’s role in contributing to the business’s strategy. You should also include a basic overview of what they’ll do during their first week or so of orientation.

Finally, end with a polite and warm sign-off. If your company has an onboarding buddy program, consider including a warm welcome note from the new hire’s assigned buddy. For greater impact, have the new hire’s direct supervisor sign the letter and the head of HR or People Ops. These nods from higher-ups can really help new employees feel welcomed and seen by their managers. Finish up by providing contact information for relevant parties to reach out to in case they have any concerns.

Employee Information Form

An employee information form keeps track of each employee’s important details in a concise way. It records an employee’s personal and work-related information, which can include their:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Role
  • Department
  • Pay rate or salary
  • Start date and end date, if applicable
  • Physical and mailing address
  • Phone number
  • Email
  • Emergency contacts and how to reach them in case of serious injury or death

Including this form in your new hire packet helps you keep all of your employee’s need-to-know information in one place for ease of reference.

Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification

As an employer, you’re federally required to verify each new employee’s identity and employment authorization. To do so, every new hire needs to complete and sign Section 1 of Form I-9 before their first day of work (but not before they accept their job offer). You must then complete and sign Section 2 of the I-9 within three days of the employee’s start date.

Don’t submit or file I-9 forms with the government but hold onto them in case of an audit. Keep each employee’s I-9 form on file for three years after they’re hired or one year after they leave your company — whichever date is later. Your I-9 forms must be available for inspection if authorized government employees request to see them, so don’t store them somewhere you won’t be able to access them.

Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate

Every new hire needs to complete Form W-4, which helps you determine how much federal income tax to withhold from their wages.

Have new hires complete the W-4 form by the end of their first day of work. This ensures you can set up payroll deductions correctly before their first paycheck. Ask employees to submit an updated W-4 form if they want to change their withholdings. According to the IRS, you need to keep all tax forms on file for at least four years in case of audit or review.

Notice of Coverage Options

If your company is subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), you must provide all new hires with a notice of coverage options, whether they’re full-time or part-time employees. This notice is mandatory under the Affordable Care Act and informs new hires of their available options for health insurance, whether through your company or the Health Insurance Marketplace. You have to provide a notice of coverage options, even if you don’t offer health coverage.

Generally, companies with annual sales of $500k or more, government agencies, hospitals, and schools, are subject to the FLSA. You can use one of the U.S. Department of Labor’s model notices for your new hire packet.

State-required Forms

State governments may also have specific forms that you need to provide in your new hire packet. Currently, 41 states require employers to pay state taxes; of these, 31 states plus the District of Columbia have their own tax withholding forms. If your employees live in one of those regions, you’ll need to include a state version of the W-4 in their new hire packets. The other nine states that require income tax withholding use the federal W-4 as a guide on how much state income tax you should withhold.

Depending on the state, you may also need to include the following:

  • Withholding form for local income tax withholding
  • Notice concerning workers’ compensation
  • Notice on state disability insurance and paid family leave
  • Wage theft prevention notice
  • Sexual harassment notice

Contact each labor office and department of revenue in the states where you hire to determine which forms you need to provide.

Background Screening Consent Form

If your company conducts background checks, you’re required to inform employees and receive their written permission to do so beforehand. Running a background check on new hires without their permission could result in penalties from the Federal Trade Commission.

You should aim to obtain this consent before an employee’s first day, but if you haven’t, include a background check consent form in their new hire packet. You can either draft your own consent form or check with your background screening vendor, as they may prefer that you use one of their forms.

If a credit check is part of your screening process for new hires, be sure to provide them with the Fair Credit Reporting Act summary of rights. Also, if you decide to let go of a new employee because of something found in their background report, you’re required to give them a copy of the report and a notice of their rights.

Direct Deposit Form

Include a direct deposit authorization form in your new hire packet if you offer direct deposit. This form gives you an employee’s permission to send their paychecks directly to their bank account. Highlight the sections that the employee needs to fill out, like their account and routing numbers. If you have a payroll debit card program for unbanked employees who want a direct deposit account, include the necessary paperwork.

Employee Handbook and Sign-off Form

Your employee handbook should contain important information about your company, its policies, and its expectations for employees. The handbook should include a sign-off sheet for the employee to acknowledge receipt of the document. You should discuss the following items in your employee handbook:

  • Company values
  • Code of Ethics
  • Antidiscrimination and harassment policies
  • Time-off policy
  • Dress code
  • Attendance requirements
  • Termination of employment
  • Workplace safety
  • Social media policy
  • Remote work policy, if applicable

For assistance creating an employee handbook, take a look at the Society for Human Resource Management’s resources, or consider hiring an HR consultant to assist you with this task.

Policy Acknowledgement Forms

Need a new hire to agree in writing to specific policies that aren’t in your employee handbook? Include an acknowledgment form for each policy in your new hire packet. Some examples of policies you may need to receive acknowledgment for include:

  • Drug testing
  • Confidentiality and non-compete agreements
  • Employee surveillance
  • Intellectual property transfer
  • Information security

Employee Benefits Information

Do you offer employee benefits  such as health insurance, retirement plans, and employee wellness programs? Make sure new hires know what benefits are available to them and how to access them. Include eligibility information and enrollment instructions for each benefit in your new hire packet. If a third party manages your benefits, include any forms and links they provide.

New Hire Checklist

As you can see, a new hire packet should include many different forms to sign, which can get overwhelming and disorganized. It’s a good idea to include a checklist of everything in the new hire packet so that employees get a high-level overview of their to-do items. Specify which documents should be signed and returned, along with due dates, so you and your employee can keep track of the status of all new hire paperwork.

Your New Hire Packet Is Your Employees’ Starting Line

Hiring goes beyond the boring paperwork, but your new hire packet gets all the tedious stuff out of the way at once in a simple, actionable way. It spells out everything your new employees need to know and do before they start their new roles. Simply put, if your company and employees are setting out on a race together, the new hire packet draws your starting line, aligning everyone with the same understanding. Get ready, set…go!

Not sure where to begin? Download your free new hire packet template here and customize it for your specific onboarding needs.

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