5 Best HR and Payroll Software for 2024

Find out how you can manage your people and finance departments in one go in our in-depth review of the best HR and payroll systems.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

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Streamlining your HR and payroll into a single software product is a smart way to improve compliance and efficiency. However, there’s a potential downside: vendor lock-in. Getting stuck with a tool that doesn’t quite fit your needs is a headache. So, how do you find the perfect combination?

Our research suggests MHR iTrent is the strongest all-in-one HR and payroll solution. It boasts impressive reporting features and excels in employee training and upskilling. But remember, the “best” solution depends on your specific needs.

This is why we’ve compiled a list of our top five HR and payroll software brands, each catering to common pain points faced by small business owners.

Best HR & Payroll Software at a Glance

Click any of the links above to begin comparing fees on HR & Payroll service providers for your own business’s size and needs.

The above is a quick explainer of the best HR and payroll software brands on the market. Below, we’ll break down each system in more detail so you can find the one with the safest security features, most cost-efficient plans, and relevant features. 

💸 A quick note on pricing: the payroll and HR software market is notorious for hiding its fees, which makes it difficult for SMEs to budget for new technology. We’ve highlighted the upfront costs for the below providers where we can, but you can also get exact payroll and HR software quotes with our 🔍free cost comparison tool. Just tell us a few details about what you need, and we’ll give you a personalised cost estimate in minutes.

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MHR iTrent

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Rippling

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Staffology by IRIS 

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Moorepay

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ADP

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Tech and healthcare businesses

Best for

Finance businesses

Best for

Seasonal businesses

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Marketing and sales businesses

Best for

Managing and paying freelancers

HMRC Compliant
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HMRC Compliant
HMRC Compliant
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Save Money By Comparing HR and Payroll Software Providers Do you currently use HR and payroll software? Compare quotes in just minutes

1. MHR iTrent: Best for tech and healthcare companies

iTrent MHR

We like how iTrent displays all information in one dashboard for a quick overview of your people analytics.

MHR is a specialist in employee learning. We recommend its software, iTrent, to firms in fast-paced sectors like tech and healthcare. Both experience constant change and upskilling ensures workers can adapt to new technologies, regulations, and best practices.

Currently, over 1,000 UK companies rely on iTrent. Its built-in Learning Management Software (LMS) can be used to host, track, distribute, personalise, optimise, and scale up your corporate training programmes. This includes:

  • New starter onboarding
  • System admin support
  • HR legislation updates for managers
  • Upskilling modules for data analysis

What does iTrent do best?

Salary budgeting: with employee wages rising, it can be difficult to budget for staffing costs. iTrent’s unique salary modelling feature helps firms stress test new hires and instantly understand how a proposed pay change will affect budget.

Timesheets: iTrent’s mobile workforce management feature lets employees clock-in and out themselves. This data then flows directly to payroll, so consultant staff – or those working to a timesheet – know that their hours are accurately recorded and compensated. Other brands on our list (Moorepay and IRIS) do not offer this feature.

Employee empowerment: gaining buy-in from employees can be difficult if a system proves confusing to learn. iTrent provides pre-recorded training videos and a knowledge base to guide employees through the account setup and management process.

Where is iTrent lacking?

Recruitment tools: iTrent does not enable applicant tracking. Once a candidate is hired, their information will need to be manually moved from your recruitment software to iTrent, adding an additional step to your onboarding process and adding to admin time.

Payroll compliance: the provider’s HR focus means it is not qualified to give advice on payroll compliance through the iTrent platform. Companies will need to hire a third-party expert or auditor to ensure they are up-to-date with tax and legislation changes.

MHR iTrent Pros:
  • MHR is ISO/IEC 27001 certified which means it meets international security standards for protecting employee data
  • Generates every type of report including the option to build your own
  • Integrates with employee benefits software, Wagestream, so employers can manage bonuses and work perks from the system
MHR iTrent Cons:
  • Customer support is not 24/7. If a company has a payroll or HR emergency they won’t get help from iTrent outside of working hours
  • Live training on how to use the software is not available which could extend data migration time for firms switching to MHR
  • Pricing is not transparent. You’ll need to request a quote from MHR
Want to outsource your payroll?

MHR might be our top-rated software for combined HR and Payroll management. However, with regard to third-party managed payroll services, our number one brand is IRIS. Check out our review of the best payroll service providers to find out more about IRIS’ offerings.

2. Rippling: Best for finance companies

Rippling dashboard payroll

Rippling makes HR and payroll processes like onboarding simple to understand with its desktop walkthroughs

Rippling is a low-cost software that launched in the UK in June 2023, with prices starting at £7 per user, per month. During testing, we were impressed by its automatic alert system. If there is a breach in payroll compliance, Rippling will instantly notify users – potentially saving thousands in avoided penalty fees.

Because of this, we recommend Rippling to finance and insurance companies. These sectors are specially regulated, meaning compliance is a particularly sticky area that Rippling can help smooth out. It can also be used for:

  • Employee background checks to comply with Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulations on senior staff qualifications
  • Know Your Customer (KYC) checks for finance businesses carrying out thorough checks on the identity and source of wealth of their clients

What is Rippling best at?

Ease-of-use: one of the key barriers to new tech adoption is the lack of knowledge from those using it. Rippling’s interface is similar to Slack and, thanks to its helpful walkthrough tour and live training features, the platform is easy for new signups to master.

Customisation: Rippling has an open API (a code that allows two software programs to communicate directly, but requires technical expertise to set up and maintain) so you can link it with your existing third-party apps. For example, Rippling can integrate with a company’s CRM tool to track customer interactions and link them to employee performance.

Where is Rippling lacking?

Trust: because Rippling is a challenger brand, those seeking a more traditional provider like Moorepay might feel concerned about Rippling’s trust and reputation in the market. Vendor data is stored in the US, which could be a security concern for finance companies with sensitive customer data. However, its stellar security features (including certificates for three international security standards) should put minds at rest.

Rippling Pros
  • Transparent starting costs - Rippling charges £7 per month, per user (although some packages also charge a bespoke fee)
  • Good for global workforces (Rippling supports payroll compliance for employees based in over 150 countries)
  • Per employee pricing structure means Rippling can scale with your workforce
Rippling Cons
  • Payments will take 2-4 days to reach an employees’ bank account
  • No free trial is available for those who want to test the software before purchase

3. Staffology Payroll by IRIS: Best for seasonal businesses

Staffology HR and payroll (1)

The Staffology self-service portal helps part-time employees or those working odd hours understand their payslip.

IRIS is one of the UK’s longest-running private software companies. It invested in a small business-oriented product called Staffology Payroll in 2021, which we recommend to seasonal companies like landscapers or tourist-oriented companies.

Staffology’s unique pricing structure enables firms with fluctuating team sizes to avoid scary staffing cost surprises. Users will pay just £10 upfront for access to the system, plus a small additional fee per payslip:

  • Teams of 1-20 pay £2 per payslip
  • Teams of 21-50 pay £1.75 per payslip

This low per-employee cost allows organisations to easily scale the technology up or down, which is ideal if you want to avoid paying extra for inactive employees during the off-season.

What does Staffology do best?

Onboarding: unlike our top-rated brand, MHR, Staffology boasts advanced onboarding and support features. This includes a 24/7 chatbot and a live training course so that you can train staff members to use the platform easily even if they’re lacking tech experience.

Visibility: like MHR and Moorepay, Staffology also has a mobile app that lets employees access payslips via a self-service portal. This means employees can view pay information and other important staff updates at any time – great if they’re working odd shift patterns.

Where is Staffology lacking?

Shift management: staff can’t record their own hours from the Staffology platform, which we found to be a significant drawback for workforces that rotate shifts, such as retailers and hospitality businesses with part-time or zero-hours workers.

Payroll reporting: Staffology is not ideal for complex data visualisation or analysis. Our researchers were unable to design a report that shows the differences between an upcoming payroll and the previous one (known as a changes report) or build custom reports.

Staffology Pros:
  • Integrates with all types of HR software including accounting software and time and attendance software
  • Supplies educational resources on payroll compliance to companies
  • Is on the CIPP Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS) for protecting employee data
Staffology Cons:
  • Support is not 24/7, so businesses will struggle to fix a payroll or HR emergency outside of business hours
  • You can’t carry out background checks on employees through the platform - important when hiring international workers

4. Moorepay: Best for marketing and sales businesses

Moorepay HR and Payroll

The Moorepay mobile app lets employees view their payslips, personal data, and other pay information on-the-go.

Moorepay is a goliath in payroll and its HR provision improved drastically after acquiring Natural HR in 2023. We recommend the solution to sales and marketing teams. Its exceptional reporting capabilities are ideal for linking staff performance to remuneration.

These types of businesses need reports that can track and analyse the complexities of employees on a salary, hourly wages, and commission.

Moorepay’s custom Report Designer Tool makes it easy for SMEs to report on bonuses, overtime pay, and labour costs associated with specific projects, to help with budgeting and profitability analysis. It boasts:

  • Predictive analytics to analyse cost impact of new hires or pay increases
  • Automatic data collection so you won’t have to worry about last-minute edits
  • Drag-and-drop functionality for those with limited design experience
  • 80 ready-made charts to track everything from gender pay gap to training costs

What does Moorepay do best?

Real-time dashboards: Moorepay gives users access to real-time dashboards so you can get an instant breakdown of your workforce each day, such as how many staff members are absent. Managers can then respond accordingly if absenteeism seems high.

Trust: the Moorepay system is well-known within HR and payroll and has an industry-leading accuracy rate of 99%. It is also CIPP-accredited and ISO 27001 certified. That means all customer data is stored securely and in compliance with GDPR regulations.

Where is Moorepay lacking?

Employee benefits: there are no ready-made integrations with benefits admin software, which is a drawback for teams that reward employees using perks and other incentives. Those with tech experience can build one using Moorepay’s open AI, however.

Training: Moorepay does not offer live training to help new users get to grips with the software. Businesses might find themselves hit with a lengthy implementation process as employees must train themselves using Moorepay’s pre-recorded webinars and tutorials.

Moorepay Pros:
  • All data inputted into the software is stored in the UK, and the company has not had a data breach in the past two years
  • Accessible via a mobile app where employees can view payslips easily
  • Educational resources are available in-platform to explain tax laws and changes
Moorepay Cons:
  • Pricing is not transparent. Interested businesses must get a quote from Moorepay
  • Employees cannot clock-in and out of work through Moorepay
  • Customer support is not 24/7. If a company has a HR or payroll emergency they won’t get help from Moorepay outside of working hours
Save Money By Comparing HR and Payroll Software Providers Do you currently use HR and payroll software? Compare quotes in just minutes

5. ADP UK: Best for managing and paying freelancers

ADP Payroll

We like that the ADP dashboard displays both weekly payroll information and a personal to-do list for time-poor managers

ADP’s impressive client base includes Coca-Cola and Amazon. While it is predominantly a tool for big business, the software has some niche features that make it ideal for small companies employing a global network of freelancers.

Companies have to be employing at least 25 team members to access ADP, which is why it’s only suitable for those with many self-employed workers on the books. Qualifying firms will get:

  • International payroll for paying workers in over 140 countries
  • AI notifications to nudge time-poor managers about payroll and HR tasks
  • Educational resources on payroll tax laws across the globe
  • Mobile app for employees to access payslip updates from any location

What does ADP do best?

Training: you’ll likely be stretched for time if you’re managing a large network of freelancers. ADP offers live and pre-recorded training materials to help users get a handle on using the software’s advanced features like open AI and custom report building.

Time tracking: ADP Real Time is a time and attendance tracker that’s accessible on any device. Even if team members are working poolside in Spain they’ll be able to accurately record their work hours for simplified timesheets and pay calculations.

Where is ADP lacking?

Budget tracking: the only report that ADP cannot generate is a changes report (a way to track spending changes between payroll runs), which might make budgeting more difficult. Businesses can use the ADP custom report builder as a workaround for this issue, however.

Support: ADP has no email support option and help is only available via live chat and phone during business hours. In the event of a system error, organisations may struggle to resolve the issue swiftly.

ADP Pros:
  • ADP is ISO/IEC 27001 certified which means it meets international security standards for protecting employee data
  • Wide array of integrations available including open AI for custom builds
ADP Cons:
  • Pricing is not transparent. Interested businesses must get a quote from ADP
  • Not CIPP Payroll Assurance Accredited (unlike Moorepay, IRIS, and MHR)
  • Minimum of 25 users means it’s unsuitable for micro-businesses

If standalone HR software sounds like the best option for your business, check out our review of the five best HR software tools for 2024.

What to look for from HR and payroll software

Because of how big the payroll and HR market is, it’s always a good idea to have a list of metrics by which to appraise each product. Then you won’t be blown off course towards a tool that complicates – rather than simplifies – your HR and payroll processes.

To find our above list, we examined each supplier in detail to judge how well they met the below criteria – and how each score compares:

  • Core functionalities does it carry out basic HR and payroll functions, like processing payslips, storing employee data, and sending P45 and P60s forms?
  • Compliance management does it provide expert advice or other resources to help with payroll compliance?
  • Other services can it be used to manage benefits, carry out recruitment tasks (like applicant tracking), and supply training modules to employees?
  • Mobile app is there a mobile app available? What can users do with the self-service portal? Can they log work hours through the app? Can they view payslips at any time?
  • Reporting can it generate individual employee reports, changes reports, and a payroll register? Can it build custom reports?
  • Integrations can it integrate with accounting, benefits, and time and attendance software? Is there an open AI to build custom integrations?
  • Customer support are there email, phone, or live chat support channels? Is the help desk open 24/7?

What to avoid in HR and payroll software

1. No customisation: last-minute revisions to payroll (such as bonuses, leave, or overtime pay) can make month-end difficult for finance teams – especially if your payroll software does not easily allow you to customise reports or edit account sheets.

Avoid this by finding a system with customisation features, such as the option to build bespoke reports. Open AI provision will also let you link existing software using custom integrations to ensure data is shared between your arsenal of business tools.

2. Data risk: protecting employee data is hugely important for ensuring the workforce keeps faith with the company. Every software should have at least two of the below:

  • Encrypted data storage
  • ISO 27001 certification 
  • CIPP accreditation 
  • Data stored at a UK-based centre 
  • Clean history of data breaches in the last two years

3. Poor scalability: switching to a new software provider is a huge hassle and can take months to carry out. Help your future self out by finding a tool that can grow alongside your business.

Look for scalable pricing tiers, or per employee billing, as this will let you hire more staff without blowing your budget. Integrations with recruitment software will make it easier for you to scale your team quickly without wasting time on administrative tasks.

4. Bad user experience: when you’ve invested in new technology it can be very frustrating when employees don’t immediately take to the platform or find its interface difficult to navigate. Make it easier for staff by finding a brand with ready-made tutorials and training materials, or even better, live training sessions. Responsive customer support teams, with multiple contact channels, can also help to address common challenges like initial confusion or data migration issues.

Similarly, if the new software has user-friendly features such as a self-service portal or mobile app, highlight how these will save your employees time and improve their experience.

How we test HR and payroll software for UK small businesses

At Startups, it’s important to us that the product recommendations we make to small UK businesses are useful, accurate, and based on thorough product testing.

We tested 10 payroll and HR systems across six main categories of investigation, which covers the most frustrating aspects of managing HR and payroll according to real-life small businesses. Next, we gave a relevance weighting to the final product category scores ensuring the products’ final ratings perfectly reflect the specific needs and requirements of Startups’ readers.

Our main testing categories for HR and payroll are:

  • Onboarding: we examined each software product based on what learning materials it offers during setup, such as live training and tutorials.
  • Accuracy and expertise: we looked at the resources available to help companies understand complex payroll processes like customer support channels (phone, email, live chat).
  • Security: we judged each system on its security features, such as if it had ISO 27001 certification, whether it encrypts data, and where data is stored.
  • Customisation: we looked at each provider to see how easy it was to tailor the software for your own business., frrom payslip amendments to building custom reports.
  • Scalability: we looked at how well each software provider could accommodate the growth and changing needs of the organisation, such as how easy and expensive it is to add new employees.
  • Employee experience: we appraised each provider on what self-service tools they offer staff to reduce admin time for managers, such as a mobile app.

Start Comparing HR and Payroll Software Providers Do you currently use HR and payroll software? Compare quotes in just minutes
HR and payroll software FAQs
  • What is better: HR and payroll software or services?
    This all depends entirely on how your business already operates. If you have a large team of payroll and HR professionals, then using software would be cost-effective. However, if this isn’t the case and you don’t have the capacity to hire dedicated departments, outsourcing to a managed service will let you access expert advice and support on finance and HR.
  • How do I do payroll?
    Most companies manage and submit their payroll using payroll software – or this process its outsourced to a third-party payroll service provider. Core payroll processes include paying your employees accurately and on time, ensuring all deductions and additional payments are included, reporting all employee wages/salaries to HMRC, sending out payslips to all employees, and completing Full Payment Submissions and end-of-year P60s.

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Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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