Q: What Do I Need to Do When I Hire My First Employee?

Your employee’s first day is full of thrills and jitters—for all parties involved. That’s why it can be easy to forget that you’re on the hook for a few things so the government can make sure you’re following all the rules. To stay in the clear, let’s go over your biggest federal and state to-dos.

1. Fill out all your employee onboarding forms

First, have your employee fill out a W-4 form to tell you how much income tax they want withheld from their paychecks. Next, they’ll need to fill out the I-9 form to prove they’re allowed to work in the U.S. With the I-9 form, you’ll also need to check their passport or other ID. (Don’t worry, all the instructions are on the form, just make sure they bring their IDs on the first day.) Once these forms are complete, you must keep copies of them in your records.

2. Report your new hires to the state

Now, you’ll need to send some info to the state where they’ll be working. The state uses these details to keep track of people who owe certain government debts, like child support. In general, this should be filed within 20 days of their start date, but some states require it sooner, so it’s important to get to it right away.

3. Get workers’ compensation insurance

Almost every state requires employers to have workers’ comp insurance. You can nab this insurance either through a commercial carrier or through your state’s workers’ comp program. Workers’ comp gives your team certain benefits and covers your business in case of illness or injuries that can come up while an employee is working.

4. Hang up those workplace posters

There are certain posters that you need to tack up in your offices depending on the city, county, and state where your business is located. Flip through the Department of Labor’s Poster Advisor tool to find the required posters for your area, and then print them out and get them up.

5. Follow the main labor law requirements

It’s a good idea to get familiar with labor laws, such as minimum wage, wage garnishments, termination issues, and worker classification. Sound intense? Fortunately, there are tons of places where you can bone up on the basics.

A great resource for this info is the Department of Labor’s Employer Guide. We also recommend checking out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 10 Steps to Starting a Business. The information they provide discusses everything from writing a business plan to applying for licenses and permits.

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