Payroll bureau guide – how to find the right provider for your business

Last checked and updated on 12 May 2022

Payroll is something that every business needs to do, and whilst it may seem like a simple task at first glance it can be a much more complex one. There are a number of considerations that you need to make, things you must get right and more importantly regulations that you need to follow if you want to remain compliant.

In this guide, we look at payroll bureaus and how to go about finding the right provider for your company. 

What is a payroll bureau?

The term payroll bureau refers to a type of service provider who specialises in providing other businesses with an outsourced payroll service. As part of their role, they supply HMRC with certain types of information on behalf of other companies and they may also receive information from HMRC and act upon it regarding these businesses. 

Is a payroll bureau just an outsourced payroll solution?
Unlike outsourcing your payroll to a payroll services provider, this option keeps part of your payroll in-house and outsources the rest of it. You are fully in control of part of it, and this means that it is you who employs the staff, sets the working hours and oversees the payroll processing

Is this the same as a managed payroll bureau?

Payroll bureau is very similar to managed payroll bureau, however they are not exactly the same thing. When you use a managed payroll bureau service you are outsourcing not just a part of your payroll but all of it to an external payroll provider. 

Why would a business hire a payroll bureau?

As we have already mentioned, payroll may look like a simple task on the face of it. However, there are so many rules and regulations that need to be adhered to if a company wishes to remain fully compliant and avoid being fined. For smaller companies in particular, employing a fully qualified payroll manager may be something that is too expensive, and this is where a payroll bureau comes in.

The employees of a payroll bureau will not only understand all of the ins and outs of payroll procedure, but also the regulations that surround payroll. They will also keep up to date with any changes so that they can help the companies that they do payroll for remain compliant. 

Outsourcing to a payroll bureau makes sense. It allows you to keep control over certain aspects of your payroll, for example the processing of new details for your employees and the updating of current details, whilst allowing a professional payroll administrator to undertake the more complex elements of a payroll. 

Payroll bureau software – top 10 packages compared

With so many different types of payroll bureau software out there it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to looking for the right solution for your business. We have put together a list of the top 10 packages to help you:

  1. BrightPay – this is an incredibly flexible software solution that offer high quality features. It can accommodate up to 10 employees at the lower end or unlimited employees for the more expensive package. They offer a free 60 day trial as well as both email and phone support. (Read our BrightPay Payroll review)
  2. Primo Payroll – This software solution which is from Accentra has been specifically created with accountants in mind. Not only can it assist with payroll processing, but its other useful features include submitting forms, auto enrolment tasks and student loan notifications. 
  3. Moneysoft – Moneysoft makes the process of handling multiple clients incredibly simple. It offers great value for money and is also very easy to use. The top tier package means you can deal with an unlimited number of employees. (Read our Moneysoft Payroll review)
  4. QTAC – Designed specifically for business owners and payroll bureaus, QTAC offer a range of different solutions. Payroll bureaus are able to manage multiple companies using features such as payroll processing, imports for timesheets and also processing of sick pay and holidays.
  5. ADP – Offering payroll services and software solutions, ADP are a well-known in the field of payroll. The ADP software package has been the recipient of many awards over the last couple of years making it a very well respected choice. (Read our ADP Payroll review)
  6. FMP Global – Another internationally recognised payroll provider, the FMP software offers a superb range of features that can assist with all aspects of bureau payroll processing. They also offer great support.
  7. Xero – Another incredibly popular provider, the Xero software allows users to do bookkeeping, run payroll and even deal with taxes. It is easy to manage all of your clients in the same place and also keep on top of everything with easy to follow tracking features. They also offer good support options. (Read our Xero Payroll review)
  8. Quickbooks – Intuit Quickbooks provide a comprehensive solution that allows for the management of clients and all of their business needs. Their software is HMRC recognised and easy to use offering maximum efficiency for payroll processing
  9. Star Payroll – A slightly more bespoke software, Star Payroll have a proven track record. The software includes features like bureau management, auto-enrolment and payroll processing. 
  10. Sage – One of the most well-known names in the field of payroll, Sage offer a payroll solution that is tailored to payroll bureaus and accountants. It’s the perfect choice for all types and sizes of business and features a superb range of different features that make it quick and easy to use. (Read our Sage payroll review)

What about cloud payroll bureau software?

Unlike the more traditional type of programs that you install on a computer and purchase in one single payment, cloud based software for payroll is not installed on your computer but accessed via the cloud. It is also paid for on a monthly basis, this is because being on the cloud means that updates can be added to the software all the time. This costing structure is obviously much more beneficial to most companies, as it reduces upfront costs and allows a company who perhaps do not have much working capital to spread the cost. 

Connecting cloud software for digital submission to HMRC
Through cloud based software you can file PAYE reports in real time to HMRC, which will ensure that your company stays compliant with all of the appropriate regulations. 

Cloud based software is a great choice if you have a number of remotely working employees as they can all access the same information in a more secure manner.

Payroll bureau software for accountants – what packages are specifically tailored to accountants?

There are a number of companies out there who offer specific payroll bureau software solutions that have been put together with accountants in mind. These include software from SAGE, IRIS, Bright pay, Primo Payroll, Moneysoft, Qtac, ADP, FMP Global and Intuit.

Remember, if you are looking for a payroll bureau software solution for your accountancy practice, then it is important to not only consider the costs of the software but also all of the features that each software solution offers. There is no point paying for features that you will not use. Likewise, if you discover later on that there are additional features that you require then you may need to buy an entirely different software solution.

Payroll bureau services in the UK – what types of service are on offer and what are the features of each?

In general, the type of service that is offered by a payroll bureau is what you might see referred to as a part-managed one in terms of payroll provision. This means that you will oversee at least part of your payroll process – the processing of individuals details, the hours that are worked and taking care of the processes that are in place. The tasks that will be taken on by the payroll bureau will often include the processing of expenses, benefits and also the printing of any payslips that are needed. 

UK payroll bureaus – who are the leading companies in the UK?

There are lots of payroll bureau companies in the UK. These include Jeffreys Henry LLP, Payplus, Crystal HR & Payroll Ltd, ADP Payroll, Just Payroll Services, Moorepay, MHR, Payescape, and much more. 

There is no one particular payroll company who are the leading provider in this field. With each one offering something a little different to their competitors, it is more a question of finding the most appropriate one for you business needs. Before you commit yourself to any particular payroll bureau it is important to think about exactly the type of service that you need. You may also want to consider looking for a provider who has experience of working with a company like yours before, particular if you are a rather niche company.

Payroll bureau costs – what should a business expect to pay? 

The cost of payroll bureau services in the UK will vary based on a number of different factors. The first of these is the type of service that you choose, obviously the more tasks you outsource to a payroll bureau the bigger the cost will be to your company. There may also be price fluctuations from one area of the country to another which may affect your company. However, in general the pricing structures will be similar. 

Most payroll bureau charge using a structure that will see you paying a set amount and then a further fee that is applied for each employee on your payroll. This fee is payable per month so if your workforce increases so too will the amount that you are charged. 

This table looks at some sample costings for payroll bureau services:

ProviderAverage cost
Payroll provider 1A general price range should be between £39 – £149. This is each month and is a base charge. Each employee you add will cost £6 – £12 per month. 
Payroll provider 2Standard cost between £12-£30 per month. There is an extra £4 per month and then £1 for each employee on your payroll. Advanced package priced at £8 per month with an extra £1 per employee.
Payroll provider 3A base cost at £35 per month with an extra cost that is calculated at a further 5% per employee.

Payroll bureau professionals – what people roles work in this sector?

Payroll bureau professionals are usually people who already have a background in some form of accounting field or have previously worked in payroll within a company.

They may also include those individuals who are interested in a career in payroll, and in some cases are studying for a payroll qualification. They may also be people undertaking an apprenticeship in payroll and are hoping to work their way up from a payroll clerk position to something more senior whilst learning on the job.

How to work with a payroll bureau – what will you need to provide, and how does the process work?

Once you have found a payroll bureau who you feel your company can work with, it is important to clearly set out exactly what tasks it is that you will want to outsource to them and what tasks you want to keep in-house. 

A payroll bureau will need to have access to the relevant employee information; salaries, pay grades and details of benefits, in order to be able to be able to process your payroll. 

If you are using a cloud based system for your payroll then all you will need to do is ensure that the information is up to date at your end, and this will allow the payroll bureau to access all of the information that they will need.


What is a payroll bureau?

A payroll bureau is a service provider in the accountancy sector. They specialise in providing a payroll service to other businesses on an outsourced basis. 

How to set up a payroll bureau in the UK?

If you are looking to set up a payroll bureau in the UK, then you will need to do some research into the available companies who offer this service. Once you have a list of companies to contact and know what it is that you are looking for contact them to see which one will suit your companies requirements. Remember that with a payroll bureau you will still be undertaking some of the work involved with your company payroll yourself. 

How much does a payroll bureau charge?

There are a number of factors that will determine how much you will pay for the services of a payroll bureau. The first of these is the service that you are looking for, the more work you want to outsource the higher the cost will be. As with any other payroll service, you will generally be charged a flat fee per employee on your payroll per month. In general this cost is around £4. 

What do payroll bureaus offer?

A payroll bureau offers a range of services including, but not limited to:

• Calculating employee pay including any necessary deductions
• Creating paper or electronic payslips
• Approving payment by BACS
• Ensuring payroll compliance with HMRC regulations
• Producing management reports 
Auto enrolment into pension schemes

What is a payroll bureau service?

Payroll bureau service refers to any of the tasks that a payroll bureau can undertake for a company on an outsourced basis.

Important – The information provided in our articles is intended to be for general purpose use only, and not advice for you or your business. We strive to publish accurate information, but encourage you to fact-check and seek expert guidance. We recommend that you always speak to a qualified professional to get advice about how to operate your business under your specific requirements and circumstances.