Best online payroll software in the UK

Find the ideal cloud based payroll software for your business with this in-depth review of the best online payroll providers on the market.

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To answer succinctly, the best online payroll software in the UK is Sage Business Cloud, according to our expert research.

But don’t simply take our word for it. Use our free cost comparison tool to compare quotes from the UK’s top cloud based payroll providers to help you make your own executive decision.

0 out of 0
Provider
Best for
Cost
HMRC compliant

Sage Business Cloud

Moorepay

ADP iHCM

Clear Books

Xero

Small businesses wanting an incredibly affordable payroll software solution

SMEs needing extra customer support, and a thorough onboarding process

Integration with time and attendance solutions and human resource programmes

Micro businesses that want flexible payment plans and incredible customer support

Small businesses wanting to save time by automating payroll processes and streamlining workflows

Dependant on the number of employees. For example:

 Five employees = £7 per month

 

Provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

Provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

2 employees = £5.40 per month

3+ employees = £2.70 per employee per month

Starter plan = £17 per month

Standard plan = £31 per month

Premium plan = £38 per month

According to our expert research, the best cloud based payroll software for small businesses is Sage Business Cloud. Not only is it one of the most affordable solutions currently available, but it also comes with 24/7 expert support and the chance to trial the software for free for 30 days.

It isn’t however the only provider in town, and in terms of businesses with more than 100 employees, the likes of Moorepay and ADP could be a more suitable option.

Whatever our expert opinion, you are the one who needs to make an executive decision. For a handy price comparison that could save you time and money, we recommend taking a moment to get personalised payroll software pricing quotes for your business by using our bespoke price comparison tool.

This service is free, takes just minutes, and involves zero obligations on your part.

Or if you want to carry out further research, read on as we guide you through the best payroll software available on the market. We’ll provide insights into the differences between them all to help you find the best match for your business needs.

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

What are the best online payroll software providers?

There are plenty of cloud based payroll providers to choose from, and you will be spending a lot of time sifting through search engines comparing pros and cons, pricing and HMRC compliance before you come up with a solid list of companies.

This is why we’ve summarised our top choices for you, and they are as follows:

  1. Sage Business Cloud
  2. Moorepay
  3. ADP
  4. Clear Books
  5. Xero

Read on for a more detailed review of each of them…

1. Sage Business Cloud: best for small businesses wanting an incredibly affordable and efficient payroll software solution

Pricing from: ranges depending on the number of employees – for example, five employees = £7 per month (first three months are FREE)

The Sage Business Cloud has an abundance of features to make payroll as simple and efficient as possible, and all for an incredible price. The software is scalable and can manage payroll for up to 100 employees, which is great for innovative startups aiming to grow quickly in a short space of time.

The multi-user access feature is handy if multiple employees are managing the payroll processing, as each individual is provided a unique login for added security. For those new to the payroll game, you can give live access to a qualified accountant to provide additional support and help finalise things.

Another really useful element, especially if you are occasionally prone to clumsiness, is Sage’s built-in corrections feature that allows you to amend data without rerunning pay runs. Other providers require you to use a backup to undo any changes to a finalised payroll period, which is a pain if you don’t have one saved.

sage business cloud

Verdict

Sage’s cloud based payroll software comes with an endless list of features, 24/7, year-round expert support and is currently free for the first three months. It is the obvious choice for any small business owner that wants to confidently and affordably manage their business's payroll.

It is important however to note that Sage only caters to payroll management of up to 100 employees, so for those startups looking to scale, you might want to look to the other providers on this list.

Pros:
  • Expert 24/7/365 support from Sage payroll specialists
  • Fully HMRC-compliant software
  • Simple and efficient - can complete pay run in four simple steps
  • Free 30 day trial
Cons:
  • Setup is complicated and time consuming – will need to make use of the 24/7 access to a Sage expert
  • Not as scalable as other competitors - catering to 100 employees max

2. Moorepay: best for SMEs needing extra customer support, and a thorough onboarding process

Pricing from: doesn't publish set price plans – instead provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

Moorepay’s cloud based payroll software has a slick design and easy-to-use interface, making things super simple for your in-house payroll team (if you have one) to work with compared to clunkier, legacy platforms (not naming any names).

Accessing and processing payroll on the go is super easy, and is ideal for remote and hybrid working teams. The training and onboarding process is the most thorough of all the competitors we've reviewed, and guarantees to get you up and running with the software effortlessly.

Moorepay is also HMRC compliant, BACS approved, and auto enrolment ready. Plus, its standout feature is its people analytics – which gives you access to real-time, insightful dashboards and data-driven graphs. So you can rest easy with an overarching view of what is going on with your employees.

What’s more, if you’re struggling to wrap your head around the countless payroll features at your disposal, the specialist UK-based support team will be on hand to manage any technical requests or issues.

moorepay analytics payroll

Verdict

If we are being honest (which we always are), Moorepay’s payroll software is more suited to medium-sized businesses, not micro-sized. The primary reason for this is that the cost simply outweighs the benefits for businesses with 2 to 30 employees (despite Moorepay not publicly sharing its pricing plans).

Once you scale into the SME category, Moorepay’s payroll software is a serious contender for the top spot. Its useability, bespoke setup and onboarding process, and excellent support and customer satisfaction rating (Trustpilot score of 4.5/5 stars) all make it an attractive choice for businesses planning to scale.

Moorepay also offers a great on-premises payroll software solution, to find out more, check out our review of the best payroll software for small businesses.

Pros:
  • Data is stored securely in UK IBM data centres, removing any risk to business continuity
  • Real-time reporting and data-driven dashboards for people analytics such as payroll outgoings
  • Professional onboarding and training process when setting up software
  • Not appropriate for micro-businesses with 5 to 30 employees, as the cost of the service outweighs the benefits
  • Pricing isn’t transparent
Want to quickly compare bespoke quotes from the best payroll software providers in the UK?

You're already sold on using payroll software for your business, but now you just need to ensure you get the best possible deal, as the last thing you want is to be tied into an expensive contract with a poor provider.

This is where we come in. Our free comparison tool will match you with the right provider for your company’s needs, providing you with direct payroll software costs that you can easily compare.

All you have to do is fill out a few details, and we will take care of the rest.

3. ADP iHCM: best for integration with time and attendance solutions and human resource programmes

Pricing from: doesn't publish set price plans – instead provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

ADP’s cloud based payroll software iHCM is an all-in-one, HMRC compliant solution that is simple to implement, has an easy-to-use interface, and lets you process payroll accurately through process automation.

What’s more, it is our recommended provider for businesses that need to integrate online payroll software with other solutions, like HR software and time and attendance services.

It’s also the ideal platform for small businesses that want to scale globally, offering software tailored to small, large, and global organisations.

Although ADP’s pricing is not transparent, they are currently offering 3 months of free payroll to companies with under 100 employees until June 30th, 2022.

See how ADP’s payroll and HR solution works below:

Verdict

ADP’s cloud based payroll offering iHCM is one of the strongest software solutions you can get on the market today. It is reliable, easy to use, and integrates seamlessly with its HR software and time and attendance solutions. For businesses that want an all-in-one solution that caters to all your admin needs, ADP is the provider of choice.

Pros:
  • EU data protection approved so you know your data is in safe hands
  • Ideal for businesses planning to scale globally
  • Integrates with ADP’s HR offering, so you can work on a single system to manage your company’s payroll and employee time, training, and recruitment management
  • Offering 3 months of free payroll for companies with under 100 employees until June 30th, 2022
  • The dashboard is completely customisable so you can access what you need easily
  • Put recurring payroll on autopilot
Cons:
  • The level of customer service needs improvement and isn’t as highly regarded as other competitors
  • Pricing is not transparent

4. Clear Books: best for micro businesses that want flexible payment plans and incredible customer support

Pricing from: 2 employees – £5.40 per month / 3+ employees – £2.70 per employee per month

Certainly the most flexible online payroll software solution on our list, Clear Books allows its customers to adjust the number of employees on its subscription at any time with no limits to the number of employees registered, unlike other competitors (such as Sage).

What’s more, business owners can rest assured that if they decide to change payroll providers or move to managed services, they can cancel their subscription at any time.

Aside from Clear Books’ flexibility, the cloud based payroll software offers a strong line of features which include its click-to-pay feature, allowing employers to save time and pay all their staff at once, rather than entering details manually.

Payslips, P45s and P60s with company logos and colours can be generated with ease in seconds, and integration with Clear Book accounting software lets you manage and track expenses and tax with ease.

Verdict

Clear Books is certainly the ideal online payroll software for businesses that need an added layer of flexibility. It is also an affordable solution with transparent pricing, which sets it apart from some of the more established and big name players on our list.

Combine this with its ‘Excellent’ 4.8 Trustpilot score thanks to its impeccable customer service, and you’ve got one of the best online payroll software solutions available in the UK.

Pros:
  • Flexible monthly contracts that can be cancelled anytime
  • Professional, supportive customer service team that answers queries quickly
  • Integration with Clear Books accounting software
  • Manage payroll for Directors
Cons:
  • Doesn’t have as many add on features as its competitors
  • The interface could be improved
Save Money By Comparing Payroll Software Providers Do you currently use payroll software? Compare quotes in just minutes

5. Xero: best for small businesses wanting to save time by automating payroll processes and streamlining workflows

Pricing from: 

  • Starter plan = £17 per month (includes accounting software)
  • Standard plan = £31 per month (includes accounting software)
  • Premium plan = £38 per month (includes accounting software)

In terms of bookkeeping, Xero has a number of excellent features to make payroll processing as simple as possible. The software automates tax, pay, pension, and even leave calculations, letting you focus on other admin tasks.

The employee self-service feature is incredibly handy for viewing payslips and requesting leave online, saving you the hassle of integrating a holiday request system with other software. And on top of all that, the software is HMRC compliant.

Verdict

Xero’s automation features are unrivalled in the payroll software space, and its Xero Me mobile app is an excellent, easily accessible feature. The whole process of payroll is made easy with Xero software, and it really shows.

However, one potential drawback in using Xero for your payroll software is that it’s only available on a Xero accounting plan – which could be a problem if you already have existing accounting software.

Still, the fact the starter plan comes at an incredibly affordable £17 per month and includes three months of payroll software for free (for up to five employees), should silence any doubts.

Pros:
  • Xero Me mobile app – employees can enter timesheets and request leave remotely
  • Automates all pay and pension calculations
  • Seamlessly pairs with Xero’s accounting software
  • The first three months are FREE for its payroll software (up to five employees) – then £5 per month
Cons:
  • Must be using Xero accounting software to access the payroll service

How much does cloud based payroll software cost?

How much online payroll software costs depends entirely on the provider you choose, along with these factors:

  • Your company size – software typically charges per employee
  • Setup and onboarding – some providers will charge you a fee to set up the software and train your employees
  • Integrations – you may want to add on and integrate other services and functions to your payroll service. These include HR management and accounting, and they will increase the overall cloud based payroll cost

The average cost of online payroll software

  • One to ten employees – £5 – £12 per month
  • 11 to 50 employees – £13 – £60 per month
  • 50 to 100 employees – £61 – £120 per month
  • 100+ employees – £121+ per month

The best way to compare payroll software costs is by using our free cost comparison tool.

It takes out all of the faff of requesting quotes from providers individually. Instead, you spend a minute answering a few simple questions, and we will provide you with quotes from some of the best payroll providers in the UK. It really is that easy.

Is there a free version of cloud based payroll software?

If you are trying to reduce overheads and need to start off by using payroll software for free, there are some solid solutions available for small businesses.

Our top three picks are:

  1. 12 Cloud Payroll – best overall free payroll software – it’s free for up to nine employees, includes some powerful features, and is much easier to use than some of its rivals
  2. IRIS Payroll Basics – best for companies looking to scale
  3. Capium – best for accountants that want a full range of services

Some of the software providers we’ve mentioned in this article, including Sage, Xero, and Clear Books, all offer a free trial for new users.

However, there are limitations to free payroll software, including:

  • Plans are suitable only for micro businesses – a limit of nine employees max on free software is common
  • Lack of support – free software typically comes with non-existent or very little support
  • It may not be up to date with legislation – lots of free payroll software is open source, meaning any web developer is free to make changes to the application

To find out more about free payroll software, read our review of the best free payroll software for small UK businesses.


What are the benefits and limitations of online payroll software?

The benefits of online payroll software:
  • It streamlines and automates payroll processes, so you can save time and reduce the cost of employing a large team of payroll professionals and administrators
  • The majority of payroll software comes with in-depth reporting functionality – which is great for business forecasting and reviewing finances
  • Free trials offered by some software providers give you the flexibility to try before you buy
  • Contracts are shorter (typically month-to-month) than they are for outsourcing payroll
  • Software is HMRC compliant
  • Great third-party integrations with accounting and HR software are available
The limitations:
  • In order to use some payroll software, you have to use a provider’s other platforms too, including its accounting software
  • Although support is available, it is not as dedicated and tailored as it is with a managed payroll service
  • Onboarding issues can arise more frequently than with a fully managed payroll service

Is payroll outsourcing right for you?

Online payroll software is a great option for lots of small businesses for all of the reasons above. But it does have its limitations, and it isn’t the only option available for your business.

Outsourcing your payroll to a managed payroll service provider is a popular option because it allows smaller businesses that don’t have the capacity to hire a dedicated payroll team to outsource all payroll duties to a service that does.

It also gives you the flexibility to choose how involved you want your service provider to be.

Other benefits of outsourcing payroll to a managed payroll provider include:

  • Your payroll is managed by a team of certified payroll specialists, meaning you can be confident that the service provided is reliable, accurate and HMRC compliant
  • There’s flexibility to choose how much you want your payroll service to be involved in the payroll process depending on your requirements
  • The provider can deal with the more complex tasks surrounding payroll, including annual P60s
  • Some payroll services come with HR functionality and support

Do managed payroll services sound like the right option for you? Then why not use our free cost comparison tool to compare some of the best payroll service providers available in the UK.

All you have to do is fill out a few simple details, and we will take care of the rest.

Or if you want to find out more about the best managed payroll service providers, visit our review of the best payroll service providers in the UK.

How to choose your payroll company

There are a number of important factors to consider when choosing your payroll provider, be sure to consider the following points when you’re selecting what company to work with:

  • Are they HMRC and RTI compliant?
  • How accurate is its payroll processing? (you ideally want 99%+)
  • Do they calculate other deductions and contributions, including pension payments and expenses?
  • Do they offer 24/7 customer support?
  • Are they affordable?
  • Are they scalable?
  • Can you integrate the software easily with other solutions?

Looking for free quotes?

It is clear from our research that Sage Business Cloud is the best cloud based payroll software provider on the market.

Not only do they offer the most affordable solution, but they also provide 24/7 support with excellent customer support, an abundance of helpful features, and you get a free 30 day trial so you can try it for yourself and see why we rate the software so highly!

Of course, in terms of scalability it isn’t the strongest provider, that title goes to Moorepay, which also has an incredibly slick easy to use interface. ADP’s iHCM software is certainly the winner in terms of integrations, so for anyone after an all in one administration solution, ADP would be the best bet.

Regardless of our opinion, you should always compare the best online payroll software available before signing on the dotted line. The last thing you want is to be stuck in a contract with a service that doesn’t fulfil the needs of your business, even if it is, generally speaking, a great product.

This is where our custom-built cost comparison tool comes in. We've partnered with some of the best payroll software providers to help you get the best service for your business, including the likes of ADP and Moorepay.

Simply fill in a few basic details, and providers will be in touch with bespoke personalised quotes for you to compare, along with further details about why the service they offer would best suit the needs of your business.

FAQs
  • What is online payroll software?
    Online payroll software, also known as cloud based payroll software, is a payroll solution that helps small businesses look after their payroll processing. It typically helps streamline processes through automation and workflows, for example, end of year reporting and automated salary/wage payments. It is online payroll software because it can be accessed remotely and on the go, on any device, as the application runs on the cloud, and not on a physical computer system.
  • What is the easiest payroll software to use?
    In terms of ease of use, Moorepay is our top choice. This is because you can fully customise your dashboard, and the slick design makes the interface incredibly easy to use. As well as this, its reporting functionality is also incredibly clear, with visually appealing graphs and bar charts for analysis.
  • How to use payroll software?
    The first thing you need to do is sign up with a provider, that will give you access to the software. After the onboarding process, you will be able to use your payroll software to organise, manage and automate employee payments.

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Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website.

Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism.

Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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