Monday, January 23, 2012

On-Boarding Paperwork ~ A Necessary Evil

Whether you are consulting as a salaried full time employee or a W2 contractor or a 1099 contractor there will always be necessary paperwork you must complete as you begin work with a new employer.
The on-boarding paperwork for a 1099 contractor is normally more minimal since you are representing yourself as your own business.  For the purpose of this post, we will only be covering the expected on-boarding paperwork for W2 contractors and salaried FTE. 

Each employer will have specific paperwork that MUST be completed.  Below is a list of the standard documents that must be filled out / signed etc and a brief explanation of their purpose.

Required forms by all employers:

Offer Letter:  Your potential employer should send you a written document (usually via email) that will lay out your pay, responsibilities and job title.  This document will be signed, scanned and emailed back and normally the hard copy will need to be mailed in as well.

I-9 Form:  The I-9 form is a legal document that is required by the government.  It's purpose is to provide employment eligibility verification.  It is used to verify identity and make sure you are eligible to work in the US.  The I-9 form requires you to fill in information and also provide 2 forms of identification (drivers license, SS card, Passport etc) to a 3rd party who will also have to sign the form verifying they reviewed your ID.  Depending on the method in which you will be working, this form might be completed on site and signed by another company representative, or if you are working remotely it may be signed by a notary and then your ID will be copied and emailed or faxed to the employer along with the I-9 form. In some states notaries cannot legally sign the I-9 form, in those cases a separate form will be provided for their signature. The original form and a copy of your ID will also have to be sent via email to the employer.

Various Tax Employee Withholding Forms:  these documents will require an ink signature and the hard copy must be provided to the employer.

Application: The application is used to verify previous employment, to provide references, to specify which position you are applying for (and being hired for) and it is a way of formally showing your intention and interest in employment.  The application is usually completed electronically.

Benefits Form:  (may not apply to all W2 hourly contractors) The standard benefits forms will normally require you to select which benefits are of interest to you and also require your signature.  The variety of benefits available will depend on the employer.  Normally an electronic signature is required for these forms. If you opt out of benefits there will be an "opt out" form to sign.  The benefits forms will also include a 401K form if the company provides one.

Employee Handbook: When beginning new employment you will receive an Employee Handbook that outlines the guidelines that company has in place.  You will be expected to return a signed hard- copy form stating you have received the handbook.  (it is ALWAYS a good idea to read through the handbook)

Additional forms that may be required:

Approval for automated payroll:  Many employers now pay by automatic deposit as opposed to a paper check.  In order for you to receive automated deposits you must fill out a form providing your banking information and also provide a voided check.  The employer will require the hard copies of these documents.

Background check approval: Depending on your line of work a background check may be required.  If it is required you will need to sign a release form allowing the company to run the check.

Drug Screen:  In may industries, particularly the Healthcare industry, drug screens are required prior to hire.  You will need to sign a form and have a drug screen conducted during the on-boarding process.  Some Healthcare positions also require a vaccination record.

Vacation Memo: Some companies have various vacation packages and may require you to sign a form stating that you are receiving a specific amount of vacation time.

Comp Plan: If you will be receiving any type of commission over and above your normal income you will likely have to sign a document that provides a break-down of your commission plan proving that you understand how your commission plan works.

Client Agreement: If you are working for a Consulting Firm or Staffing Firm at one of their client sites it may be necessary to sign a document that lays out the expectations of that client, adhering to their regulations etc while you are actively engaged with them. 

Credit Card Form:  If you are expected to travel for work or entertain clients you may be provided with a company credit card.  Depending on the type of credit card you may be expected to fill out a standard application for credit and the company may also run a credit check.

Electronics Agreement:  If your employer will be providing you with any electronics (cell phone, lap top etc) you will be required to sign a form verifying that you received those items and they were in good condition. (same goes for company cars or other company property you may be using during your employment)

Security Clearance:  If the position you have been offered requires Government Security Clearance you will be expected to provide proof of clearance.

Proof of Certifications: If the position you have been offered requires various certifications, you may be required to provide proof of those certifications.

So why, after going through various stages of interview do you now have to go through tons of paperwork?  I call it the CYA mentality. (cover your ass)  You are CYA to make sure you receive the benefits, commission, vacation you are entitled to, and to make sure that legally you are in the clear in case the IRS comes calling.  The companies also have a vested interest in covering their butts in case for any reason you have misrepresented your qualifications or things do not go well with your new position.  Instead of viewing the on-boarding process as a grueling waste of your time, try to view it as a necessary evil that could potentially protect you in the future.  Fortunately most companies have internal employees that are in place to walk you through each step of the hiring process and make it as painless as possible.

Next time you are rolling your eyes in frustration at yet another piece of paperwork, remember the CYA theory and keep in mind you are not only doing this to comply with company regulations, you're doing it for your own best interest.

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