Payroll software in 2021 – everything you need to know for your business

Do you feel like your admin or HR team is continually getting bogged down with admin? Do you feel frustrated due to a lack of accurate employee data? Do you find that you are struggling to focus on paying, managing, and engaging your employees as effectively as you should?

These are just a number of the issues that payroll and HR professionals need to overcome on a daily basis. This is why it makes sense to look into payroll & HR software solutions, which are improving all the time. With that being said, we have put this guide together to reveal everything you need to know.

Payroll software vs. solutions vs. systems: what’s the difference?

When it comes to HR and payroll, one of the main things you need to consider is whether you should opt for standalone solutions or an integrated HR and payroll solution. Below, we will take a look at the pros and cons of both so you get a better understanding. This summary could save time when it comes to decision making.

Pros of choosing an integrated HR and payroll solution (Cons of going for a standalone solution)

Integrated payroll and HR solutions have become more accessible because of the cloud. These systems make it easier for you to correctly manage employee data, as you are only going to be dealing with one third-party vendor instead of dealing with multiple.

Another advantage of going down this route is that you will have the ability to do cross-functional analysis and reporting, rather than needing to merge a number of data sets together or having to pull information into a different data warehouse for assessment.

In addition to this, HR data input can be more secure when going down this route. Data security is vital for you to remain compliant with GDPR and other data protection legislation. You can ensure that the risk of human error is lowered, accuracy is improved, and issues surrounding duplicated data can be avoided. A lot of organisations feel that these systems are more practical and efficient, which is why they have become so popular.

Pros of a standalone solution (Cons of choosing an integrated HR and payroll solution)

Traditionally, when companies have been looking to upgrade their software, standalone payroll and HR systems have been the preferred choice. It has been the conventional option for these to exist as separate entities, with payroll focusing on monetary tasks and HR concentrating on the full spectrum of processes relating to employees.

There are still some benefits that are associated with going down this route. For example, using a standalone system makes it easy for businesses to change the configuration if a company process has changed. Less planning is required when it comes to using a standalone system.

You can also expect to have more control over HR technology contracts when you have a standalone system in place.

Payroll software features: what to look out for

There are many different options out there when it comes to payroll and HR software. There is no right or wrong when it comes to selecting software; it is simply about making sure it is suitable for your business.

What sort of features should you be looking for when choosing an HR and payroll software platform?

When looking for a payroll & HR software solution, there are many different options out there, and one thing that you need to think about is the core HR features the solution provides. Some of the different areas covered in HR management software include the following:

  • Accounting
  • Professional development and learning including employee performance management
  • Attendance and time management (ability to deal with holiday requests, etc)
  • Financial management
  • Benefits management
  • Talent management
  • Hiring and recruitment including applicant tracking
  • Employee information management

Therefore, you need to take a look at the different features relating to the above areas of HR and payroll management so you can determine which solution is going to be right for you.

Comparison of features offered by payroll and HR software providers

ProviderBenefits ManagementDirect DepositPayroll ReportingTax ComplianceVacation TrackingW-2 PreparationPayroll Outsourcing
Employment HeroYYYYYY
Sage Business Cloud PayrollYNYYNNN
Papaya GlobalYYYYYNN

Cloud-based payroll software: what is it?

One human resources management systems option to consider is cloud-based payroll software, which is something many businesses have switched to for a variety of reasons. This tool gives you the ability to access, control, and operate everything about your payroll, including handling exit processes, ensuring compliance, and onboarding employees, over a remote system. All you need is a device that is connected to the Internet. This means that payroll can be handled anywhere in the world.

Payroll software for a small business vs. enterprise vs. public sector

When you are looking for HR management system software for your establishment, one thing you need to consider is whether or not the tool is going to be right for you. After all, HR solutions for the public sector can be very different when compared to those aimed at small businesses or nationwide companies with different sites. Your HR processes may be somewhat different to the larger blue chip companies. Therefore, you need to make sure that the solution can be tailored to suit your business and your company needs.

This is why it is important to look at the different features that are offered to make sure that the solution is right for you. It is also a good idea to take a look at the different clients the software provider currently has. After all, this will give you a good insight into the sort of companies that find their solution suitable.

Pricing: how much does payroll software cost?

It is important to realise that prices can differ depending on a number of different factors. Firstly, the number of employees at your business will make an impact, especially from the payroll side of things.

Aside from this, another factor that will impact the cost is how many features and add-ons are available. A lot of companies will have a basic package and then you can add on some extras too. Therefore, whether you go for a basic or advanced plan is going to make a difference in terms of how much you pay.

In the table below, we will take a look at costs from some of the different providers out there so you can get a better understanding:

CompanyPricing per month
Payescape£52.50 to £172.50
BrightPay£99 to £299
Capium£100 to £300
Free Agent£19 to £29
Xero£10 to £27.50
KashFlow£6.50 to £27.50
SageOne£3 to £13
QuickBooks£8 to £27.50
Moneysoft£68 to £204
HMRC Basic PAYE ToolsFree

Free payroll software

There is the option of using free software, such as the HMRC Basic PAYE Tools we mentioned in the table above. There are a few other solutions as well that are free, yet most of them will be very restricted in terms of the number of employees you can have.

While choosing something that is free can be very tempting, it is often typically not worth it. The restrictions and limitations will prevent you from achieving the efficiency that you are striving for by employing a solution like this.

One thing we would recommend, though, is making the most of the free trials that are available. This gives you a good opportunity to figure out whether or not the software is going to be right for you. A lot of providers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

How to use payroll software

When it comes to implementing payroll & HR software, there are a number of different steps that you need to follow. Let’s take a look.

  1. Choose the best payroll software for your business

    Firstly, you need to select the best payroll and HR software for your business. To do this, there are many different areas that you will need to consider. We recommend looking into the following areas:
    • What necessary features do you require from the solution?
    • Is the software safe and private? What security measures do they have in place to protect your data?
    • How much integration is needed?
    • What sort of analytics and reports are available?
    • Is the software available in the cloud? Can you access it from all devices?
    • Is there a trial available?
    • Is the software UK-based and does it comply with the regulations in the UK?
    • What is customer support like? How can you contact the company if you have a query?
    • What have other people had to say about the solution?
    • How easy is the software to use?

  2. Select a package

    Once you have decided on the right solution for your needs, you will need to choose the right package for your business. A lot of the companies out there today will have a basic package, which is a simple solution that only covers the most essential features. There will then be some more comprehensive options, which will, of course, cost more money. Therefore, you need to think about what is going to be right for your business needs.

  3. Download the software

    Once you have chosen a package and completed the checkout process, you will be prompted to download the software onto your device.

  4. Input your data and customise the solution

    Once the software has been downloaded, we recommend familiarising yourself with all of the features. A lot of tools will come with a tutorial so you know how to use them properly. Once you have got familiar with how everything works, you can add in your data and customise the solution so that it works best for your specific needs.

  5. Contact customer support if you need any help

    Finally, if you run into any trouble and need assistance, simply get in touch with the customer services team at the software company and they will be able to assist you.

Best payroll software compared

There are a lot of different payroll and HR software providers in the UK for businesses to choose from. We will take a look at 10 of the best below so you can get a better understanding:

RankSoftware nameWhy we shortlisted it…
1SageThere is only one place to begin, and this is with Safe, which is one of the most well-known cloud-based software businesses out there. The company, which was founded in Newcastle in 1981, provides a wide range of different features. The solution will create payslips, as well as taking care of National Insurance deductions, student loan repayments, bonuses and holiday pay, and hourly payments. You can access Sage Business Cloud Payroll for as little as £3.50 per month.
2Natural HRNext on the list, we have to mention Natural HR, which is an all-in-one payroll and HR software that is designed for enterprise or mid-sized organisations that want to better pay, manage, and engage their workers. Some of the areas that Natural HR will cover include payroll, HR analytics and reporting, expenses and mileage, employee engagement, document management, asset management, and absence management. Plus, you can use the free demo to determine whether or not this is right for you.
3FourthYou may also want to consider using Fourth for your HR and payroll requirements. There are a number of high-profile clients that use this solution, including PAUL, Dishoom, and Hilton. This is a workforce management solution that is set up specifically for hospitality businesses. The purchase-to-pay suite will take care of purchasing, nutrition, menus, recipes, inventory, invoices, and more. You can also manage demand, scheduling, service charge allocation, and payroll.
4IRISWith 35 years of experience in the industry, IRIS has become a trusted name. Every year, over three million tax returns are filed by British companies using this system. The suite of programs IRIS offers includes HR, payroll, and accountancy for companies of all sizes. There is even a specialist solution available specifically for medical personnel. In terms of features, you can calculate the likes of National Insurance, PAYE, and more automatically. You can also make the most of free payroll that is HMRC-recognised and RTI-compliant, so long as your business has fewer than 10 employees. Furthermore, free software updates and automatic calculations for payment and enrolment are provided.
5ReioReio is a solution that claims it can reduce your time spent on employee management down to just 10 minutes per month! There are a number of great features you can benefit from. For example, you can integrate Reio with popular software tools, like Xero and Google Suite. In addition to this, you can handle all basic HR functions, HMRC submissions, and payroll calculations. In terms of pricing, Reio is free for companies that have 10 employees or fewer. The premium plan, though, enables you to access more features, including setting up employee benefits, pay contractors, and manage part-time workers. Premium will cost £5 per month, per employee. You can request a custom enterprise package if this is better suited.
6FreeAgentA well-rounded accounting and bookkeeping solution, FreeAgent offers payroll management as part of its solution. The UK support team is impressive here, with everyone being an experienced accountant. Furthermore, there is a mobile app that boasts a number of helpful features. You can also create P60s for all workers, as well as being able to automatically generate weekly or monthly payslips for all employees. There are different plans available at FreeAgent for limited businesses, partnerships, and sole traders, with prices starting from £19 per month.
7KashFlowKashFlow is one of the most popular solutions out there when it comes to HR, payroll, and bookkeeping. If you run a healthcare business, we would recommend that you seriously consider this option as your top contender. There are a number of features that come with this solution, including tax and NI calculations, payroll updates in real-time, and automated payroll approval. KashFlow also has information pointers on certain terms so that users can navigate the solution, as well as ensuring workers have access to their payslips no matter where in the world they are. You can either use this product with the flagship accounting software from KashFlow or it can be used separately. Subscriptions start from £6.50 per month for five employees. After this, the cost is £1.10 for every additional employee.
8Intuit PayrollAnother option that is worth considering is Intuit Payroll, which is brought to you by the same company that has created QuickBooks. You can use both solutions together seamlessly. You will be able to calculate pension, tax, and insurance contributions with ease, as well as handling employee forms and payslips. Another benefit is that you can send real-time data to HMRC, ensuring your records are always up to date. The free mobile app that comes with Intuit Payroll is another benefit. You can also connect to numerous bank accounts and set up automatic chase-ups for late payments. The cost of this solution is £1 per month, per employee. However, you will need to add this to your QuickBooks subscription. If you do not have QuickBooks yet, this starts from £18 per month.
9XeroXero came onto the software scene in Britain in 2008. The company has grown quickly over here, and you can use their service for £10 per month. However, do note that Xero Payroll is an add-on. This will cost £5 per month extra for five employees. You will then need to pay an extra £1 per month for every other employee on top of this. As Xero is compatible with more than 700 apps, it appeals to a lot of businesses. Some of the great features include being able to submit payroll data from Xero straight to HMRC, managing pension fillings, providing electronic and encrypted payslips, statutory pay calculations, and flexible pay calendars.
10HMRC Basic PAYE ToolsHMRC has brought out its own set of tools for businesses to make the most of. We have to mention them, as they are free as well. Because of this, though, they are very much no-frills. With this option, you will be able to check the National Insurance number of new workers, manage employees and send payment summaries, and handle tax and National Insurance (NI). However, you will only be able to use this if you have less than 10 employees.


What is HR payroll software?

HR payroll software is a specialist solution that will streamline all of your processes relating to making payments to your employees. Repetitive tasks are automated, providing real-time data that can aid with your calculations.

What is the best payroll software?

There are lots of great payroll software solutions out there for you to choose from. This includes the likes of Workful, Patriot Payroll, QuickBooks, Sage, and Oasis. It is important to take the time to assess all of your options carefully so you can find the best solution for your company.

How to do payroll without software?

There are two options available to you when it comes to doing payroll without software. You can either do it manually or you can fully outsource payroll to a third party.

How much does payroll software cost?

The cost of payroll can differ significantly from company to company, depending on the number of employees you have at your business and the sort of package you go for. Most companies will have a basic package and then you will have the ability to add on some extras, which will, of course, come at an added fee.

What is the best payroll software for a small business?

If you are looking for payroll software for your small business, there are a number of different options available. Some of the best include Fingercheck, Zenefits, and Gusto.

How does payroll software work?

Whenever the time comes to pay your employees, which is often once a month for a lot of businesses, your payroll software is going to automatically record their pay, as well as calculating any deductions, including tax. Your payroll solution will then determine how much Employers’ National Insurance your business is going to have to pay on every worker’s salary.

What is the best free payroll software?

There are a number of options available to you if you are looking for free payroll software. However, it is important to note that a lot of these solutions are only free up to a certain number of employees or for a specified period of time. For example, Rise is free for up to 20 employees. QuickBooks Payroll, on the other hand, comes with a 30-day free trial.

How to use payroll software?

To use payroll software, you will need to input all of the relevant information about your employees. Once the software is set up, it should be able to do all of the hard work for you automatically.

What is HR software?

HR software is a digital tool for the management and optimisation of daily human resource tasks and the overall HR objectives of your business. HR software makes it possible for HR managers and staff to better allocate their resources and time so that they are more profitable and productive.

What is the best HR software?

There are lots of great HR software solutions out there for people to choose from today. Some of the best include Sage Business Cloud People, BambooHR, Freshteam, Deputy, and Gusto.

How to choose HR software?

There is a lot to consider when looking for the best HR solution for your business. You need to ensure that the tool is user-friendly and that you can access it no matter where you are. You will also want to make sure that the solution is scalable, flexible, and customisable.