Best payroll service providers UK 2021

Has your payroll got your small business in a pickle? Need a helping hand with HMRC complexities? Find out about the best payroll service providers and compare prices here.

About us

Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a multi-time entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. Our site is governed by the Startups editorial manifesto. This article was co-authored by:

Operating and owning your own business is both rewarding and exhausting, and payroll duties can be among the most labour-intensive, yet important, tasks involved. That's why a payroll service provider can be a godsend for busy small business operators.

According to our research, the best managed payroll provider for the job is IRIS. This brand offers a feature-filled, professional service that includes help from expert CIPP-accredited payroll specialists, guaranteed HMRC compliance and the management of every aspect of your payroll.

But the important question is, regardless of IRIS’s title as our best payroll service provider, is it the right choice for your business? It isn't the only game in town – Moorepay and Pecunia also have fantastic managed payroll solutions. For a handy price comparison, we recommend taking a moment to get personalised payroll service pricing quotes for your business. This service is free, takes just minutes, and involves zero obligations on your part.

Small business owners should know that outsourcing payroll is an excellent way to relieve the stress and strain of administrative duties, saving you time and money. If you want to carry out further research, read on as we guide you through the best payroll service providers on the market. We’ll provide insights into the differences between them all to help you find the best match for your business needs.

0 out of 0
Provider
Best for
Cost
Fully managed?

IRIS

Moorepay

Pecunia Pro

MHR

PayEscape

Small businesses with complex payroll structures and employees on specific payment schemes that need reliable, expert payroll management specialists

SMEs that want consistently reliable, accurate payrolls

Micro-businesses planning to scale

Small businesses needing business continuity procedures and additional support in place in case of staffing issues and emergency situations

Small businesses needing to integrate existing accounting and HR administration software with payroll

Provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

Provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

Provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

Provides personalised quotes after assessing business needs

Monthly – £50 base price + £3.00 per employee per month

Weekly – £14 base price + £1.25 per employee per week

Best payroll service providers UK: an overview

According to our expert research, the top payroll service providers in the UK are:

  1. IRIS – best for: Small businesses with complex payroll structures and employees on specific payment schemes that need reliable, expert payroll management specialists.
  2. Moorepay – best for: SMEs that want consistently reliable, accurate payrolls
  3. Pecunia Pro – best for:  micro-businesses planning to scale
  4. MHR – best for: small businesses needing business continuity procedures and additional support in place in case of staffing issues and emergency situations
  5. PayEscape – best for: small businesses needing to integrate existing accounting and HR administration software with payroll

Whether you’re searching for the best support, pricing, scalability, or more, we’ve profiled each of these top payroll service providers for small UK businesses to help you find the best match for your priorities.


IRIS

Best for: small businesses with complex payroll structures and employees on specific payment schemes that need reliable, expert payroll management specialists

irispayrollservices

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

IRIS is one of the UK’s longest-running private software companies. It’s been supplying administration solutions to the country's businesses, charities and public sector for over 40 years.

Features

The IRIS managed payroll service has plenty of features. It ensures clients remain compliant by offering an in-house payroll accreditation scheme, and invests in regular training on the latest payroll legislation to help your employees develop a clearer understanding of payroll – giving you the flexibility to move in-house in the future or transition to a partially managed service.

It uses the latest RTI-recognised software to guarantee HMRC compliance and to cover industry-specific programmes across a variety of sectors, such as local government pension schemes, Teachers’ Pensions, expatriate payroll, the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) and the NHS Pension Scheme.

Your staff have 24/7, 365 access to their payslips and pension documents through an e-payslip portal, and best of all you’ll have a dedicated CIPP-accredited account manager to look after you and your business.

Verdict

IRIS offers the best managed payroll services, and it’s clear to see why. Not only does IRIS take full ownership of your whole payroll department, unlike competitors MHR and Sage Accounting, but it does so with guaranteed compliance, minimised costs, and simplified processes. There are no set up fees, and the specialist payroll team can handle a wide variety of payment schemes and monthly pay run deductions using its own in-house software.

Pros:
  • BACS Approved Bureau – IRIS can make BACS payments on your behalf
  • Monthly reports are provided for you to approve before any payments are made
  • Dedicated account manager to handle all queries
Cons:
  • More tailored to SMEs than to micro-businesses – could be expensive for businesses with 5-30 employees

Moorepay

Best for: SMEs that want consistently reliable, accurate payrolls 

moorepaypayrollservices

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

Moorepay is a goliath in the payroll services industry, used to pay one in six of the UK’s working population – but that doesn’t make it any less of a bespoke provider for small businesses.

Features

Moorepay’s payroll service covers every industry except accounting, making it an extremely versatile provider that supports the most niche of industries. Its managed service is as thorough as it is efficient, managing every aspect of a business’s payroll including data validation, calculation, processing, printing, distribution and reporting.

There’s no need to worry about being HMRC compliant, as Moorepay guarantees this and handles any legislative or policy changes on your behalf. You’ll also have access to a secure, web-based interface 24/7 – so you can monitor the back end yourself for additional peace of mind.

Another great feature that Moorepay provides you with is a dedicated payroll specialist to help you with any queries or issues that may arise whilst outsourcing. You’ll go through a specific onboarding process to make the transition from another provider, or from in-house payroll operations, as smooth as possible.

Verdict

Moorepay is easily a contender for the best payroll service provider, coming in a strong second place. Not only do you receive a tailored package suited specifically to your business needs, but you also get a dedicated payroll specialist to help support you. With a payroll accuracy rate of 99.9% and a Trustpilot score of 4.5/5 stars, it’s difficult to find much wrong with Moorepay.

Pros:
  • Bespoke, personalised setup with a dedicated payroll specialist
  • Incredibly reliable – 99.9% of payrolls are accurate
  • Real-time reporting and data-driven dashboards for people analytics such as payroll outgoings
  • Data is stored securely in UK IBM data centres
Cons:
  • Not appropriate for micro-businesses with 5-30 employees, as the cost of the service outweighs the benefits
Want to quickly compare bespoke quotes from the best payroll service providers in the UK?

You're already sold on outsourcing payroll for your company, but now you just need to ensure you get the best possible deal for your small business, 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 service provider 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.


Pecunia Pro

Best for: micro-businesses planning to scale

pecuniapropayrollservices

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

Pecunia Pro may not be the biggest household name on this list, but its fully managed payroll service is well known among small businesses for being both personable and reliable.

Features

Pecunia Pro is incredibly scalable, offering its service for all types of clients and business sizes, ranging from one employee to 1,000. The fully managed payroll setup includes an audit of internal info, meaning you can have peace of mind that everything is in order as you begin outsourcing.

The service includes an agreed payroll management pack, with journals and analyses for more detailed reporting. The processing of all starters and leavers is handled by Pecunia Pro, as is communication with HMRC to ensure you remain compliant.

Verdict

Pecunia Pro is the ideal managed payroll service for smaller businesses wanting a tailored, professional and reliable service. Your whole payroll will be fully managed from top to bottom so you can focus on other aspects of your business, and Pecunia Pro even offers a payroll consultation service for customers who want their internal payroll processes reviewed. It can also manage your payroll on-site if that is one of your requirements. Pecunia Pro is a great all-rounder, with lots of potential moving forward.

Pros:
  • Payroll managed on-site – outsourced service but with an in-house presence
  • UK-based provider with UK support staff
  • All Year-End filing including P60 production
Cons:
  • Pension scheme management is not included in the cost of the service

MHR

Best for: small businesses needing business continuity procedures and additional support in place in case of staffing issues and emergency situations

MHRpayrollserviceprovider

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

MHR has been operating for over 35 years in the HR and payroll industry, and is a specialist in the field of talent management, with 1,000+ companies relying on its services. It offers a full suite of payroll services for small businesses in the UK, including fully managed and partially managed payroll, as well as its award-winning payroll and HR software iTrent – which is included in ourbest payroll software review.

Features

For starters, MHR’s managed payroll admin service can save you up to 50% on payroll processing costs, according to its website. The service is very agile and easily integrated with a number of industry leading systems for accounting and HR, although it doesn’t specify which systems.

Its emergency payroll support feature is unique in that it provides additional help in unexpected circumstances (like the pandemic) to its customers – so if your staff are overwhelmed, MHR will step in and provide an expert consultant to manage every aspect of your payroll, rather than just the admin side of things.

MHR also offers a free team of experts to help you make your investment case for outsourcing payroll, making the transition from in-house solutions a lot easier. HMRC-compliant submissions, payroll reports, absence reports and BACS processing are just a few of the features included in the service.

Verdict

MHR’s managed payroll processing service boasts an accuracy rate of 99.9% – meaning just one in 100,000 employees are at risk of being paid incorrectly. This impeccable accuracy is just one of the many reasons MHR is one of the best managed payroll providers for small businesses. Its unique offerings, like emergency payroll support, make it a viable choice for small businesses in turbulent, unpredictable industries.

Pros:
  • Reliable service with a 99.9% accuracy rate when paying employees
  • Emergency payroll support feature
  • Free expert consultation when in process of outsourcing
  • State-of-the-art closed network data centres to keep your data secure
Cons:
  • No 24/7 customer support – only 9-5 Monday to Friday

PayEscape

Best for: small businesses needing to integrate existing accounting and HR administration software with payroll

PayEscapepayrollservices

Cost:

  • Monthly – £50 base price + £3.00 per employee per month (15 employees = £95.00 per month)
  • Weekly – £14 base price + £1.25 per employee per week (15 employees = £32.75 per week)

PayEscape might not be as established as the likes of Moorepay, but the company is one of the fastest growing payroll providers in the UK, retaining 98% of its clients with its unbeatable combination of superior web-based technology and impeccable customer service.

Features

What sets Payescape’s managed payroll apart from competitors’ is its ability to integrate with industry leading software, including Xero accounting, Sage, Kashflow and Microsoft Navision. This makes outsourcing your payroll a pain-free, easy process without having to manually input data into new or existing software.

The instant web access feature allows you to access payroll from any device, and has been modified to allow you to set up different levels of access for your employees to ensure the right people can see the right information.

Every member of Payescape’s service team is certified by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP), including your designated single point of contact who can handle any requests you may have, as they manage everything from BACS payments and pensions to medical insurance.

Verdict

The fact that Payescape can customise and track employee information, adding skills, education and health and safety certifications, makes it unique in that it’s a managed payroll system with efficient HR functionality.

Its customisable features and integrations with various industry-leading accounting software make it one of the most versatile managed payroll services available, and a solid, reliable choice for small businesses that want an affordable managed payroll solution.

Pros:
  • Can process weekly and monthly staff payroll for UK-based companies
  • HR functionality to scan documents and track employee skills
  • Partnered with industry-leading organisations – including time management software, accounting software and HR software
  • Monthly cost – can cancel anytime without any penalties
Cons:
  • Customer service isn’t available 24/7 – only 9-5 Monday to Friday

Why you should invest in a payroll provider

It’s not just about paying people on time – that, in theory, is the simplest part of the process.

Many business owners struggle to find the time to remain on top of:

  • Administrative processes
  • The regular changes in tax law and regulations overseen by HMRC
  • The many and varied deductions and calculations related to an employee’s gross salary each week or month
  • The data input associated with payslips and other documentation such as annual P60s

A payroll service provider will be able to assist you with all of these tasks, and can do so much more efficiently and accurately than an in-house excel spreadsheet could ever hope to.

But how can you ensure you’re investing in the best payroll provider for you? One of the most time-saving and efficient ways to do this is to use our free comparison tool, which matches you with the best managed payroll providers in the UK, including the likes of IRIS and Moorepay. Once you’ve answered a few simple questions, you’ll be sent bespoke personalised quotes and can compare costs quickly and easily.


Next steps: roundup and comparison of the best payroll service providers in the UK

From our in-depth reviews, it is clear that the best managed payroll service provider is IRIS. This reputable, established provider flaunts its vast experience with an excellent payroll service offering.

IRIS is the best provider because its exceptional payroll expertise covers the majority of UK payment schemes, so whatever your industry and whatever the status of your employees, you can have confidence IRIS will know what it’s doing. Its in-house, reliable and secure payroll system guarantees compliance and in a nutshell, this provider offers the whole package, including excellent customer support.

Managed payroll providers Moorepay and Pecunia Pro are close runners up and both offer strong services for different reasons. Although Moorepay isn’t suitable for micro businesses, its dedicated payroll specialists and impressive technical support make it a great option for those wanting close communication with their payroll service provider. Pecunia Pro is brilliant because it offers a tailored, fully managed service for even the tiniest of businesses, so if you’ve got two employees and want to outsource – we recommend it.

Regardless of our opinion, you should always compare managed payroll service providers 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 comparison tool comes in. We've partnered with some of the best payroll service providers to help you get the best service for your business, including the likes of IRIS, Moorepay and Pecunia. Simply provide us with 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.

Save Money By Comparing Managed Payroll Providers Do you already have a payroll provider? Compare quotes in just minutes

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

He's previously written for Conde Nast Traveller and the NME and is passionate about music, sustainability, and travelling. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

Back to Top