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HR Compliance Checklist: A Brief Guide [+ Templates]

Written by: Jennifer Gaskin

Jan 25, 2022

hr compliance checklist blog header

HR compliance is much more than just making sure people know when casual Friday is. It can help keep a company from facing lawsuits alleging that it’s violating the law, and for those tasked with this responsibility, an HR compliance checklist can help simplify the process.

Every business must work by a set of rules governing hiring, promotions, firing and other personnel-related matters. Some of these are imposed by local, state and federal authorities, and some are less directly related to specific laws.

In both cases, the job of ensuring compliance with these rules often falls to the HR department, so let’s take a closer look at HR compliance, HR compliance checklists and several HR compliance checklist PDF templates to get your company started on ensuring HR compliance and improving internal communications.


Click to jump ahead:

What’s included in HR compliance?

Broadly, HR compliance refers to ensuring that an organization, whether it’s a business, nonprofit, educational institution or government agency, follows established protocols, procedures and rules governing its actions.

For businesses in the finance sector, for example, that means ensuring that none of their actions run afoul of rules established by federal authorities. And nonprofits must take great pains to ensure they’re accounting for money spent in a particular way.

When we think of HR compliance, legal obligations may apply, both to the employer and its employees, as well as certain internal policies and procedures, which typically derive from ensuring the company is following the law.

HR compliance extends to many issues across organizations, including:

  • Recruiting, interviewing and hiring
  • Physical security measures
  • Policies and procedures
  • Employee handbook/Personnel handbook
  • Social networking
  • Labor and employment laws
  • Training
  • Sexual harassment, bullying and drugs
  • Discipline and termination
  • Pay and benefits
  • Conflict resolution

Here’s an example of how it looks in a checklist template (the full version right down below):

hr compliance checklist

Across each of these areas, certain local, state and federal employment laws may apply, depending on the organization.

Some federal law examples include:

  • the Fair Labor Standards Act (which establishes minimum wage, overtime and child labor laws)
  • the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (which prohibits discrimination against applicants aged 40 and older)
  • the Occupational Safety and Health Act (which sets standards on workplace safety)
  • the Americans with Disabilities Act (which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities)
  • the Civil Rights Act (which prohibits sex discrimination and sexual harassment at work)
  • the Equal Pay Act (which requires women and men to be paid the same salary if they do the same work)

and more.

Surely, the risk of falling out of compliance could be huge: Since 2000, U.S. corporations have paid out nearly $3 billion in civil-rights and labor lawsuits over allegations that they were not complying with applicable laws.

Here’s the complete version of the checklist above. Customize it to help with your HR compliance audit:

hr compliance checklist

As this HR checklist illustrates, specific requirements for each company will vary. And in some cases, policies are put in place for both legal reasons and internal decision-making.

For example, while it’s not illegal for coworkers to have romantic relationships, your firm may frown on it, and if that’s the case, it’s important to ensure such policies are spelled out and that everyone is aware of them.

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What is the purpose of an HR compliance audit?

An HR compliance audit ensures the company or organization is, in fact, in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. In some cases, such as for government agencies, compliance audits are conducted annually.

 It’s generally recommended that a company conduct its own HR compliance audit, such as global payroll compliance, once every year or every other year to ensure that all rules and regulations are followed. This is especially crucial for organizations operating in multiple countries, where navigating complex and diverse legal landscapes is essential to avoid penalties and ensure employee satisfaction.

As this HR simple compliance audit mind map illustrates, such an audit is expansive and can be difficult for HR or compliance teams. That’s why being just as expansive with your HR compliance checklist is wise.

hr compliance checklist

Feel free to customize or download this mind map for your annual HR compliance audit. You can also edit it so it uses your company’s brand colors and logos by using My Brand Kit:

Venngage my brand kit

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What is the purpose of an HR compliance checklist?

An HR compliance checklist is a useful tool in ensuring that all necessary information is being gathered and that all parties who need to be informed of certain procedures or regulations have been so informed. These documents, whether physical or digital, are also useful in managing the scope of HR compliance audits.

A human resource compliance checklist like this one can help ensure that no materials fall through the cracks when it comes time to determine the effectiveness of your company’s HR and compliance procedures. Modify a template like this to apply to your specific industry and company.

hr compliance checklist

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HR compliance checklist templates

What is a compliance checklist?

Most of the checklists we mentioned in the previous section are created, at least in part, to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations, though they can also be created for the simple purpose of keeping track of certain tasks.

So, a compliance checklist is simply a way to ensure all documentation, including names, dates and other information that applies, has been gathered and is being tracked in the event it’s needed, such as when an audit is conducted.

Compliance checklists can exist across many departments in an organization, including HR but also extending to many others.

hr compliance checklist

And, as this checklist template illustrates, HR compliance checklists can include a variety of types of information, including both digital or hard-copy records as well as events, such as ensuring employees have reviewed materials or procedures.

What is an HR checklist?

Checklists are excellent visual tools that let organizations of all types see at a glance certain tasks or processes that have been completed. From an HR standpoint, that could include things like:


An onboarding checklist can be simple, straight-to-the-point like this one:

hr onboarding checklist

Or it can be more comprehensive in a presentation style like this:

onboarding checklist presentation



Customize these offboarding checklist templates for a smooth offboarding process for your employees. You save this template as a copy to share with a leaving employee:

offboarding checklist employee

Or if you’re a supervisor, take a look at this template:

offboarding checklist supervisor

Performance reviews

If you conduct performance reviews quarterly, make use of this template:

quarterly performance review template

There’s a template for an annual performance review as well:

annual performance review template


Worker documentation

These typically include standard operating procedures (SOP), job aids, work instructions and more. Here’s an example of an SOP checklist for a blog publishing process:

standard operating procedure checklist blog publishing


Employee handbook

You can create employee handbooks to welcome a newcomer to the team, to help an employee transition to a new role, and more. Customize this employee handbook for your onboarding process:

employee handbook onboarding

Or if you need a handbook for employee separation, this is a great template for you:

employee handbook employee separation

For more employee handbook examples, check out this post: How to Write an Employee Handbook [Examples + Tips].


This HR mind map for auditing references a variety of HR policies and procedures that must be followed within an organization.

hr compliance checklist

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HR compliance checklist FAQs

Do you have questions about creating an HR compliance checklist? We’ve got answers.

How often should you conduct an HR compliance audit?

For certain organizations, such as government agencies, compliance audits of HR and other departments are conducted annually. But if such regulations don’t apply to your organization, it’s still a good idea to conduct these audits internally at least once a year or once every other year.

How do you ensure HR compliance?

The auditing process ensures HR compliance as well as compliance with standards and regulations in other areas. But it’s not necessary to wait for an audit to be triggered; in many organizations, spot-checking is done, while others use automated tools to ensure compliance with all HR policies and procedures as well as any government regulations that may apply.

Are legal compliance and HR compliance the same?

Not always. HR compliance refers both to the internal rules and guidelines established by the organization for how it wants to make personnel decisions as well as certain laws that apply to businesses depending on their size, industry or activities, and if you are concerned that your company is falling short of legal compliance, it’s wise to seek the advice of a qualified attorney in your area.

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In summary: Help make sure your company stays on the right side of the law by creating useful HR compliance checklists

Of course, you should be sure that any compliance-related materials you create for your organization are reviewed by experts, such as your firm’s legal counsel. But creating HR compliance checklists can help keep your HR or compliance team members on the same page and working toward this important goal.

About Jennifer Gaskin

A veteran of newsrooms and agencies, Jennifer Gaskin is a writer, editor and designer who is the only living person not to have strong feelings on the Oxford comma. She's an award-winning practitioner of journalism and information design who spent the better part of a decade as the creative director of a digital marketing shop. As a writer, Jennifer contributes to a variety of publications while working with clients as well as taking on her own projects.