10 Onboarding Documents You Need For New Hires

September 13, 2023

Nobody relishes the task of going through a list of onboarding paperwork thicker than the phone book. Thankfully technology has made streamlined the entire process, but HR professionals still need to have a firm grasp on what documents are needed.
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Sifting through onboarding checklists can be a snooze fest for HR professionals and new hires alike. It's the kind of thing that makes you want to shout, "Wake me when the paperwork's done!" and fall asleep in a pile of forms.

Okay, we’re being a little dramatic, but still, we’d all like the process to be easier.

Thankfully, there are plenty of HR software solutions available that streamline onboarding document management and alleviate administrative burden.

While your HR solution streamlines paperwork management, it’s still important for HR professionals to understand the most vital onboarding documents and know how to use them.

So, let’s dig into what exactly you need.

What is Onboarding Paperwork, and Why is it Important?

Onboarding paperwork is a collection of documents that every new hire must complete and sign. These documents help clear a new hire to legally work for your company, and new employees can’t be paid before many of these forms are completed.

In today’s digital era, this “paperwork” isn’t necessarily physical documents, but electronic files. Many companies use HR software to manage the dissemination and completion of these documents on a computer or mobile device.

Onboarding forms include W-4s, I-9s, and other documents concerned with an employee’s legal right to work and taxes. Benefits enrollment information, employment contracts, and team communication policies are other common types.

The onboarding process is also meant to make new recruits aware of company procedures, policies, values, and other components. While orientation can handle some of this, onboarding paperwork educates employees on things like job responsibilities and company culture.

The Value of Onboarding Paperwork

Onboarding paperwork is a necessary part of new hire orientation. While paperwork rarely excites anyone, onboarding documents have many benefits:

  • Legal and tax compliance: Federal and state agencies require certain forms to verify work eligibility and account for taxes. Forgoing this will result in fines and other penalties.
  • Streamlined payroll: Many employees expect to be paid by timely direct deposits. Payment forms, along with a W-4, simplify employee pay and tax withholding so employees receive their wages on time.
  • Easy benefits enrollment: Inform new hires of the benefits available to them and how to use them. They can enroll from day one so HR doesn’t have to chase people down for information.
  • Record-keeping and organization: Onboarding documents leave a digital and/or paper trail of every process a new hire has finished. This gives employers a checklist of all orientation activities and essential employee information.
  • Educate new hires: Onboarding forms and an employee handbook help train new personnel on company policies, corporate identity, and risk management. Onboarding forms set the tone and expectations of everyone involved.
  • Maintain confidentiality and data protection: Non-disclosure agreements and non-compete clauses protect your organization from the beginning.

Learn More: What Is Preboarding and Why Is It Important? Best Strategies and Practices for Your New Hires

The 10 Vital Documents to Have on Your Onboarding Checklist

Every business should tailor employee onboarding documents and checklists to fit their needs, industry, jurisdiction, etc.

1. Job Offer Letter

You can’t formally offer a job to a candidate without putting it in writing. A job offer letter makes everything official and promotes professionalism to start the new relationship on the right foot.

A formal job offer document also outlines relevant details to a prospective employee. Many of these terms bring transparency to what the new hire can expect, such as their:

  • Job title
  • Role description
  • Start date
  • Location (if applicable)
  • Starting compensation
  • Benefits eligibility
  • Direct manager
  • Contact information
  • Acceptance deadline
  • Signature

You can also add sections for a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or basic terms and conditions of employment. However, you can also save these legal details for the other onboarding documents.

2. Employment Contract

The employment contract is necessary to legally bind the two parties as employer and employee. It's a document that outlines the terms and conditions of the relationship. In a sense, the job offer is an introduction, and the employment agreement covers a lot more details, including:

  • Job title and responsibilities
  • Start date
  • Contract end date or duration
  • Compensation
  • Work schedule or expected shift patterns
  • Overtime policies
  • Termination policies and procedures
  • Intellectual property
  • Confidentiality
  • Non-compete clause
  • Dispute resolution and procedures
  • Liability terms and conditions of employment
  • Benefits
  • Signature line

Make it easy for new hires to sign onboarding paperwork with Paylocity’s HR document management software. Our platform integrates with signNow so you can implement native eSignatures for all of your onboarding documents.

3. Form I-9

You need an accurate and properly completed I-9 form for every employee as it verifies their eligibility to work within the United States. While the employee should fill out the form truthfully, you're responsible for their authorization to work (or lack thereof).

Completing an I-9 form requires two parts: First, the employee must declare their eligibility to work in the U.S. Second, they must submit paperwork that meets the government’s list of acceptable documents. Proof of eligibility includes a U.S. passport, driver’s license, social security card, or birth certificate.

You don’t need to submit an I-9 to a government agency, but you do need to have a copy on hand for every employee in case of a governmental audit.

Make sure you read all I-9 instructions carefully. Any errors or inconsistencies could incur hefty fines for you and the employee.

Heads Up!

In August 2023, the Department of Homeland Security updated Form I-9 and changed the employment eligibility verification process. Check out our Guide to the New I-9 for a breakdown of these changes, and what your organization needs to do to remain compliant.

4. Form W-4

The next government-based onboarding document is the W-4 tax form. This form lets an employee self-declare how much tax you are to withhold with each paycheck. Unlike an I-9, it isn’t necessarily your responsibility to ensure the form is accurate.

However, you can help your employees avoid much pain and frustration by guiding them during the W-4 process. It also makes life easier for your payroll team to pay the new employee on time.

You can download a W-4 form directly from the IRS and add it to your onboarding paperwork. Alternatively, you can download an up-to-date tax withholding form with Paylocity. Employee circumstances change, so our payroll software solutions make it easy to update withholding election changes for your team.

5. Direct Deposit Form

Speaking of payroll, directly depositing wages into an account is the best way to pay your employees. Not only does it save your team a trip to the bank, it’s also more inclusive for remote and hybrid employees. Direct deposits ensure that every employee is consistent and on time payment.

You need a new hire’s bank account and routing number to set up direct deposits. Combined with a W-4 form, everything should go smoothly for that first paycheck.

With payroll platforms like Paylocity, it's easy to set up direct deposits for employees during the onboarding process.

6. Tax Documents

Form W-4 is the king of tax onboarding documents for new employees. However, that form only applies to federal income taxes. Currently, 42 states impose income taxes on individuals. If you operate (or your employee resides) in one of these states, you'll need a state tax withholding form in your onboarding document checklist.

Many U.S. localities, such as San Francisco and New York City, impose additional income taxes. That may be another tax withholding form you need employees to complete.

However, if you work with independent contractors, a W-9 form is required instead. This legal document is a Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification form. It doesn’t withhold tax, but you'll need it on record for tax reporting purposes.

Overwhelmed By State Payroll Taxes? We Got You.

Each state has its own unique payroll tax set up, some more complex than others. Browse our state-by-state payroll tax facts for the specifics on each state’s requirements.  

Still stressed? Paylocity’s payroll tax experts are here to help.

7. Emergency Contact Information Form

In HR, we don’t like to think of worst-case scenarios. However, it’s better to prepare for any situation. As such, it's best practice to get emergency contact information from new hires from the outset. Emergency contact onboarding forms help your new employees have peace of mind when entering a new workplace.

Create and use an onboarding document that requires the information of at least two individuals. Emergency contact details should include full name, mobile phone number, and email address.

8. Employee Handbook

When someone starts a new job, there’s a mountain of information to digest. An employee handbook is a compendium that lays the foundation for the orientation process.

Your employee manual is a comprehensive company guide. It can also include guidelines on communication and company culture. Employees don’t have to read the entire document before the first day of work, but it’s a useful reference during onboarding and for the duration of employment.

Some sections to cover in your employee handbook include:

  • Company values and mission statements
  • Job descriptions and work schedules
  • Code of conduct and behavior expectations
  • Non-discrimination practices
  • Safety and security
  • Performance management
  • Dress code
  • Emergency procedures
  • Time off, family, and medical leave
  • Conflict resolution
  • Termination and resignation

You want guidelines for every situation. Paylocity’s employee handbook guide will ensure you don’t leave anything out.

9. Benefits Brochure

Offering benefits is one strategy for attracting and retaining talent. In 2020, 57% of U.S. employees stated that health insurance was the most important benefit. Other crucial benefits include adhering to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), life insurance, retirement contributions, and telecommuting.

Every benefit you provide is to improve employee morale and well-being. Therefore, don’t want to waste your resources due to confusing benefits enrollment. A benefits brochure is an easy way to inform employees of all benefits initiatives and eligibility requirements.

10. Organizational Hierarchy Chart

Hierarchy can be confusing for new hires. An organizational hierarchy chart provides an easy-to-read overview of your organization from the top down.

The board of directors or owner will be at the apex, followed by the C-suite. Any employee should be able to follow the chart down to the junior level. The organizational chart provides a simple workflow of who reports to whom, and outlines how your company generally operates.

When creating your business hierarchy chart, you can include team member names with each line of authority. This will help new hires understand who to contact for questions or concerns.

Learn More: Your Guide to HR Document Management

Other Possible Onboarding Documents

Besides the essentials, there’s plenty of other useful paperwork for bringing new employees on board. Here are some examples you may also want to include.

Company Calendar

New hires will feel more included when they’re aware of what’s happening at the company. Design an onboarding company calendar for holidays or scheduling meetings, interviews, and other events.

Brand Identity Guidelines

Your leaders have carefully curated your corporate image and brand identity. It’ll be easier to maintain that image if new hires know the score from the get-go. Including a brand identity guide in your onboarding documents aids in a smooth transition from old work habits for every employee.

Your brand guidelines document should include:

  • Brand voice and tone
  • Logo usage
  • Fonts and typography
  • Color schemes, symbols, and shapes
  • Use of images and artwork

This onboarding document makes expectations known and helps build a consistent customer experience.

Risk Management Policy

A risk management policy allows you to state what processes are in place to maintain the safety of the business. This can include mitigating risks both internally and externally.

It’s one of the onboarding documents that creates transparency for new hires by identifying procedures to deal with malicious activities (e.g., embezzlement), workplace accidents, and lawsuits.

Employee Consent Form

An employee consent form is a required onboarding document if you wish to perform tasks such as background checks and drug tests. You need an employee consent form to obtain employee permission and legal protection for the business.

Improve Your New Hires’ Journey with HR Software That Streamlines the Onboarding Process

HR professionals and employees are united in their desire for a smoother onboarding process. Paylocity’s employee onboarding software takes the rough jagged mountains of onboarding and transforms them into gentle, rolling pastures.

Our software fully digitizes the entire onboarding process. All of your onboarding paperwork is sent to new hires simultaneously and filled out electronically at their convenience. Best of all, you can verify every form from one central space.

Additionally, with Paylocity, your new team members can plug straight into our collaboration and communication tools. They can seek assistance if needed. Better yet, they can start getting to know the team right away. And that’s what effective onboarding is all about.

Want to find out more? Request a demo today!


Make Your First Impression Count 

An impactful employee experience begins before day one. Make data collection, tax paperwork, and direct deposit setup seamless so you can begin engaging your new employees immediately with our onboarding tool. Help make your new hire’s first day memorable in the best way possible with less process and more human connection.

Ease Into Onboarding