What to Do on Your Employee's First Day

Here's how to welcome your new employee and comply with paperwork requirements.

Your employee's first day on the job can be an exciting time for both of you, especially if this is your first employee. In addition to welcoming your employee, you will be responsible for completing paperwork required by the government, putting up certain workplace posters, and providing your employee with other helpful documents. Here are some tips for making that first day go smoothly. (For more on legal and practical issues for businesses with employees, see Nolo's Human Resources area.)

Welcoming Your Employee

Take time on the first day to set the right tone and get the relationship off to a good start. Do all you can to make the employee feel welcome.

Personalize the workspace. Ask whether your employee has suggestions for making his or her workspace more comfortable. Encourage your employee to personalize the surroundings if that's feasible and appropriate in your business.

Show your employee the ropes. Explain how workplace equipment works and describe any specific procedures that must be followed.

Make introductions. Chances are that your business is part of a community of several small businesses, so help make sure your employee becomes a recognized part of that community. Introduce your new employee to people in nearby businesses who are likely to see him or her come or go each day.

Do lunch. To show that this is an auspicious day for both of you, offer to take your employee to lunch. It doesn't have to be at a fancy restaurant. The mere act of breaking bread together, even in a modest eatery, can help you and your employee bond.

Provide business cards. An especially welcoming touch is to give your employee a batch of business cards with his or her name on them. You can print these cards using your computer or, for a modest charge, get them from a print shop or office supply store.

Completing Required Paperwork

In addition to making your employee feel welcome, you must attend to some paperwork. You and your new employee will need to complete three government-related forms.

Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification . Federal law requires employers to hire only people who may legally work in the United States: citizens and nationals, lawful permanent residents, and aliens authorized to work. All employers and employees -- including those who are U.S. citizens -- must complete Form I-9.

Within three business days after employment starts, you must examine evidence of the worker's identity and employment status. Form I-9 lists acceptable documents. In addition, you can use the government's new Web-based verification system, called E-Verify. This voluntary system provides immediate information about your employee's eligibility (but you still have to fill out the I-9 Form). To learn more about Form I-9 and E-Verify, visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website at www.uscis.gov.

It's often a good idea to make photocopies of the documents that your employee provides to you. Use these copies only for employment verification. Keep them and the completed Form I-9 in a file that's separate from other employee records.

For more articles and information about Form I-9, see the articles at our Hiring Non-U.S. Workers for Your Business page.

Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. This IRS form helps you determine how much federal income tax to withhold from the employee's paychecks. The employee indicates the number of his or her dependents and whether you should withhold any additional federal income tax -- and then signs and dates the form.

New hire reporting information. Shortly after hiring a new employee, all employers, regardless of size, must complete and submit basic identifying and contact information for the employee to a designated state agency. Each state has its own requirements, which are usually available online; begin a search with your state's name and "new hire reporting." Retain a copy of the information you submitted in the employee's file, just in case there's a question later.

The agency will use the information to locate parents who are not making child support payments. You must provide this information for every new hire, whether or not the employee claims to be a parent.

Required Posters

The federal government and most state governments require you to display certain posters in the workplace. You should have these in place before your employee's first day on the job. These posters are intended to inform workers of their legal rights in the workplace.

To find out what federal posters your business needs and to obtain copies of them, check out the U.S. Department of Labor website at www.dol.gov. (Click on the Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) and then on Workplace Poster Requirements.) Also check with your state's labor department to learn if you need other posters and to find out how to get them.

Other Paperwork

Apart from the paperwork required by law, also consider other documents that will be helpful to your employee and make it easier for you to run your business. For example, you might want to provide contact information and enrollment documents for a health care plan or a training seminar.

In addition, if you haven't already done so, consider writing up your business's policies and procedures. Then, review them with your new employee, emphasizing the practical aspects of the job. For complete information for small employers on how to find, interview, and manage employees, see Hiring Your First Employee: A Step-by-Step Guide, by Fred S. Steingold (Nolo).

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