Top 10 Payroll Software for Startups in 2021

December 14th, 2020

Payroll software is increasingly a central component of integrated, multifunctional human capital management (HCM) systems. Compared to paper-based systems, payroll software significantly speeds up the payroll process while reducing errors and enabling managers to easily customize paychecks for individual employees.

Payroll systems help with:

  • Pay check calculators with deductions for withholdings (taxes, insurance, and retirement contributions)
  • Processing of direct paycheck deposits (including printing physical checks if required)
  • Generating tax forms (w4 forms)
  • Deducting wage garnishments

Why You Should Invest In A Payroll System For Your Startup

  1. Focus on your core: While its tempting to not spend money in susbcribing to different software as an early stage startup, you and your team should be focused on driving progress in your product. Don't reinvent the wheel on things that take your focus away from your vision.
  2. Save time and effort: Payroll is a regular activity that requires high accuracy. Investing in a system that automates payroll processes will save you time and give you the flexibility that outsourced service-based options may not provide. Payroll software today is self-serve, easy to use, and with flexible pricing options enabling you to stay on top of payroll, improve compliance, and save time.
  3. Don't risk costly mistakes: Mitigate errors in the payroll process and reduce the hours spent calculating employee hours, wages, and tax withholdings. Derisk yourself from with transparent reporting and control over the process.

To help you decide the best payroll software for your startup, we've compared market leading 10 options based on features, pricing, and pros and cons.

Top 10 Payroll Processing Software in 2021 

#1 Run Powered by ADP

  • Price: $180/month
  • Business Size: Good for Small Businesses (1-50 employees)
  • Free Trial: Yes 

Features: 

  • Manages your payroll, human resources and talent management
  • Is mobile device friendly, allowing you to access your user dashboard while on the go to view HR reports, charts, graphs, employee details, sick days, holiday leave and more

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Full payroll admin functionality available
  • Ability to submit tax reports and payments on behalf of employees
  • Great tracking of PTO and sick leave
  • Customer service has high availability across hours

Cons:

  • Customer service requires calling the company

#2 Gusto

  • Price: Basic $19/month + $6 per person/month; Complete $39/month + $12 per person/month; Core $39/month + $6 per person/month; Concierge $149/month + $12 per person/month
  • Business Size: Recommended for companies under 200 employees
  • Free Trial: Yes 

Features: 

  • Provides full-service payroll
  • Offers benefits management such as health insurance, commuter benefits, and 401(k), expert HR, time tracking, and employee management tools.

Pros:

  • Easy to use capability to get get employees their paychecks
  • Intuitive dashboard to view benefits
  • Good for managing documents

Cons:

  • Difficult for employees to add personalized reimbursements (e.g. mileage)
  • Hours of operation based on West coast

#3 Paychex Flex

  • Price: Express Payroll: $60 per pay period, $4 per employee; Paychex Flex Select: $90 Monthly Base Pricing ($/Month), $3 per employee; Paychex Flex Pro: $158 Monthly Base Pricing, $3.65 per employee
  • Business Size: Well suited for smaller or less complex businesses with less than 250 employees
  • Free Trial: No 

Features: 

  • Offers a cloud-based payroll management system which helps users manage payroll activity with payroll processing technology
  • Has built-in safeguards and automatic payroll tax calculation, payment, and filling
  • Offers reporting and analytics tools.

Pros:

  • Easy to use clock in / out functionality
  • Managing time off is easy
  • Good visibility of time and attendance of employees

Cons:

  • Timeliness of paycheck delivery isn't always consistent
  • Users say reporting functionality needs to be better

#4 TriNet

  • Price: By quote
  • Business Size: Good for Small Businesses (1-50 employees) and Mid-Size Companies (51-500 employees)
  • Free Trial: Yes

Features: 

  • Offers TriNet cloud based applications, bundled HR solutions, and strategic services that improve and streamline a business’s end to end HR management
  • Offers tailored solutions by industry across risk and compliance, payroll, benefits, and HR management

Pros:

  • Provides in-depth training on using their systems especially to review the alternative insurance choices
  • Excellent support along the process

Cons:

  • Re-enrollment process is known to be confusing and requires support

#5 Bamboo HR

  • Price: Essentials $6.19 per employee per month; Advantage $8.25 per employee per month
  • Business Size: Good for Small Businesses (1-50 employees) and Mid-Size Companies (51-500 employees) and freelancers
  • Free Trial: Yes 

Features: 

  • Offers a single system to consolidate all employee and human resources related data and to manage a number of human resources activities
  • Builds a centralized database of employee profiles that can be accessed by anyone in the company with the access permissions you define. Each profile can store personal information and a photo, as well as details on benefits, salary, time off, documents, training, and more
  • Ability to add custom fields to record important information unique to your company

Pros:

  • Great for self-serve use
  • Onboarding workflows are useful
  • Interface is user friendly

Cons:

  • Limited reporting and analytics functionality - can be made more granular

#6 Square Payroll

  • Price: $34/ month
  • Business Size: Good for Small Businesses (1-100 employees)
  • Free Trial: Yes 

Features: 

  • Offers an integrated online payroll processing solution that helps small businesses and enterprises manage the paychecks of both salaried and hourly wage employees
  • Provides various features including integrated timecards, tax calculators and new-hire reporting
  • Offers a dashboard that can be accessed by all the employees to update their personal information, bank account details and tax withholdings
  • Provides detailed access rights control with employees having the option to view and edit only their details
  • Offers timecard feature that helps to track employee clock-in and out and calculate overtime, bonus payments and commissions. Managers can also review, edit and manage the timecard information by using the dashboard functionality

Pros:

  • Easy to use, affordable option Somewhat easy to use. It gets the job done, and it is affordable and easy to train others to use. 

Cons:

  • Reporting and analytics lags compared to peers
  • Training is not offered

#7 Zenefits

  • Price: Essentials: $8 per month per employee; Growth: $14 per month per employee; Zen: $21 per month per employee
  • Business Size: SMBs of all sizes - from 1 to 5 employees to businesses with 1000+ employees
  • Free Trial: Yes 

Features: 

  • Integrates all processes, apps, and tools needed including payroll, HR, benefits, compliance, and time in one solution
  • Enables employees to stay up to date on earnings, deductions, and taxes easily, plus track and manage time off requests through payroll management feature

Pros:

  • Simple onboarding experience for employees
  • Easy to access and make changes to benefits
  • Straightforward PTO request process and tracking 

Cons:

  • Customer Service - not always able to speak with someone within the same day

#8 UltiPro

  • Price: $600 per year for a license for up to 5 users
  • Business Size: Best for companies with 1000-5000 employees 
  • Free Trial: No 

Features: 

  • Offers HR, Payroll, Benefits Administration, Open Enrollment and Life Events, Time, Attendance, and Scheduling, Payroll Administration, and Tax Management
  • Has provision for reporting and analytics modules including Reporting, Workforce Analytics, and Business Intelligence.

Pros:

  • Good for Business Intelligence reporting
  • Salary planning capability is well liked
  • Onboarding is easy for new users

Cons:

  • Some customer service reps see to not be knowledgeable about product
  • High fee for sending physical checks on day of printing unlike that for peers

#9 Workday by HCM

  • Price: $100 to $200 per employee for a minimum three-year contract.
  • Business Size: Built to enable HR success for businesses with 20 to 50K+ employees
  • Free Trial: No 

Features: 

  • Is a cloud-based human resource management software system that unifies a wide range of HR functionality into a single system
  • Provides benefits, talent management, payroll, time tracking, compensation, workforce planning, and recruiting functionality.

Pros:

  • Great onboarding for new users
  • Good tracking of employee life cycle
  • Neat integration features to support L&D and compliance tasks

Cons:

  • Inconsistent reports sometimes give different outputs
  • Direct deposit setup is cumbersome
  • UI known to be clunky

#10 Rippling

  • Price: Free: $0; Recommended: $8 / month per user; Premium: $15 / month per user
  • Business Size: Good for Small Businesses (1-50 employees) and Mid-Size Companies (51-500 employees)
  • Free Trial: No 

Features: 

  • Offers sophisticated benefits administration service with excellent payroll-processing tools
  • Enables advanced features and exceptional customizability making it suitable for larger companies
  • Can be integrated with midrange accounting applications Intact and NetSuite.

Pros:

  • The automations, integrations, and ease of use are second to none
  • Users claim that important tasks (i.e. onboarding a new employee) take upto 80% less time than other vendors users. Workflows are well connected with intuitive product layout

Cons: 

  • Support comes in form of email - phone connections not available

Which Payroll System Is Right For You?

With so many options available, it can be a daunting task to choose a payroll system that's right for you. Choosing the right system for you will save you time and effort, de-risk you, and give you the flexibility to compensate your employees and run your business the way you want to as you scale.

Still confused? We can help. Write to us at hello@abstractops.com. We'll help you choose the right payroll system for your startup.

At AbstractOps, we help founders like you automate and streamline back office functions so you can focus on what matters.

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