How HR handles an Employee Name Change

Name changes occur among employees for all kinds of reasons. After marriage, either spouse may elect to change his or her last name, or, both might agree to assume a new hyphenated version. Other scenarios include divorce, religious or gender conversions, or …. just simple dislike of the name one was given. Here is some guidance for you to effortlessly handle employee name changes at your company.

Payroll – Payroll records must match the name on an employee’s Social Security Card. Do not make updates to payroll, withholding, or any IRS-related documents, until a copy of the new SSA card has been provided. Advise employees to download the SSA card application and visit their local SSA office as soon as possible, as it may take an additional 10-14 days to then receive a new card. Unlike almost everything else in our daily lives, there is no online process for SSA name changes, so this link to the SSA office locator may come in handy for your employees.  Not only should a new W-4 withholding form be signed specifying the new name, it’s likely that withholding calculations should be updated to reflect marital status.

Employee Benefits – If an employee name change is related to a qualifying life event such as marriage or divorce, there will be an array of benefits administration tasks required in addition to simply updating the name. Most plans allow sixty (60) days from the date of the life event for enrollment or selection changes. Whether or not changes are made to any benefit programs, an employee’s beneficiary forms should be reviewed and re-signed to minimize confusion and conflict in the event of future claims.

I9 Form – Assuming an employee’s name changes at a time other than during a rehire or re-verification, employers are encouraged to update Form I-9 in the space provided in Section 3, in order to maintain correct information. The employer may ask about the basis of the name change and to request and accept supporting documentation to be used only as evidence of the name change. However, new I-9 documentation to prove eligibility to work in the U.S. may not be requested due to name change only.

Other considerations – (1) update the employee’s email (set up forwarding from old email address, have employee send a name change to all contacts from new email, if forwarding can’t continue indefinitely, provide a transition period during which email is not forwarded but sender receives an auto-reply with new address); (2) implement cross-referencing capabilities in your HR software for continuity of employee records and employment history.


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