The best free HR software not only automates day-to-day HR tasks but also provides online solutions for managing the employee lifecycle—from hiring to retiring. Some systems include tools for tracking staff attendance and work shifts, while others allow you to pay employees and conduct performance reviews.
Although paid HR software provides similar features with added services (such as payroll tax filings and year-end tax reporting), smaller businesses may find free solutions to be more than enough for their needs. Some have limits to the number of employees or locations you can have though.
In this guide, we reviewed 12 free HR management software and narrowed it down to our top five recommendations.
- Homebase: Best free time tracking and scheduling for one-location businesses (with up to 20 employees)
- Deel: Best free global HR solution for direct-hire employees
- TimeTrex: Best free payroll system with basic HR tools
- Connecteam: Best free employee tasking and training software
- OrangeHRM: Best free HR software for managing employee performance reviews
If you want HR software with more functionalities, but you have a limited budget, consider reasonably priced options that come with a free trial. This allows you to evaluate its features and make sure it has all of the tools you need, without having to pay subscription fees outright.
- Gusto: 30-day free trial + solid payroll and HR tools with applicant tracking and basic job postings
- Paychex Flex: Three-month free trial + dedicated payroll support and learning management tools
- BambooHR: Seven-day free trial + workforce data management solutions with employee well-being surveys
HR Software Compared
Businesses that need more robust functionalities or a more powerful all-in-one solution may be better served by paid HR software. Apart from providing essential solutions for managing your workforce, many paid options offer advanced reporting, audit trails, and survey solutions for assessing employee engagement at work. Some even allow you to add your company’s branding elements to its platform.
For an online HR software that’s reasonably priced, consider Gusto. Its core platform may be payroll, but it has a feature-rich HR solution suite that can help you manage hiring and even learning programs. Gusto is also designed to streamline and automate processes, saving you time from having to manually track employee information, onboarding requirements, payroll tax filings, staff attendance, and more.
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Homebase: Best Free Employee Scheduling & Time Tracking Tools
Homebase made it to our list of free HR management software mainly because of its robust free plan, which includes time tracking and scheduling tools that similar providers typically include in their paid tiers. It even offers time clock apps that allow you to capture employee clock-ins/out via computers, tablets, and smartphones. And, if you need to send real-time messages to employees about shift updates, Homebase has an in-app messaging tool to help you stay connected with your team.
While it seems like it has all the basic HR tools that small businesses will need to hire and manage employees, you have to upgrade to its paid plans if you want to track PTO, post job ads, hire qualified candidates, and onboard new hires. Payroll is also an add-on solution (TimeTrex includes this in its free tier), plus, it doesn’t provide access to health insurance and benefits plans for your employees.
Homebase Is Featured In
- Best Employee Scheduling Software for Small Businesses
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Read our Homebase review to learn more about its features.
Deel: Best Free Global HR Platform for Managing Direct-hire Employees
Deel makes managing an international workforce easy for companies with distributed teams across the globe. Its Deel HR platform has all the essential tools to manage employees, from onboarding to offboarding. Expense and time off tracking features are also included, as well as staff profiles with online organization charts and people directories. Best of all, Deel HR is free for companies with up to 200 employees.
However, Deel HR is only optimal for those with local entities in countries where their business operates—meaning they don’t require an EoR to hire, manage, and pay employees on their behalf. If you do need this type of service, then you have to upgrade to Deel’s paid “EoR Employees” plan. Additionally, Deel lacks the time tracking and performance review features that most of the providers in this guide offer.
Deel Is Featured In
Read our Deel review to learn more about its features.
TimeTrex: Best Free Payroll Software With Basic HR Tools
TimeTrex is the only HR software on our list that includes payroll processing in its free version. Homebase offers a payroll tool for an additional fee, while the other free HR software we reviewed don’t have this feature. What’s even better about TimeTrex’s free Community Edition is the inclusion of performance reviews, scheduling, PTO management, an employee database, and even time clock apps to help capture staff attendance. This makes TimeTrex great for small businesses that want robust functionalities in a free HR management software.
What its Community Edition doesn’t have are the applicant tracking tools that Homebase and OrangeHRM offer in its free plans. You have to upgrade to its paid version if you want hiring features. Plus, TimeTrex doesn’t handle payroll tax filings for you—it only generates the tax forms, which you have to file yourself. However, if you have the budget to spend and don’t want the stress of handling tax form submissions, consider Gusto. It offers unlimited pay runs and payroll tax filings and has similar HR tools as TimeTrex’s, but for a reasonable fee (starts at $40 plus $6 per employee monthly).
TimeTrex Is Featured In
Read our TimeTrex review to learn more about its features.
Connecteam: Best Free Employee Tasking & Training Software
Since Our Last Update: The provider has made a few adjustments to its pricing plans, such as renaming its free tier to “Small Business” and reducing the plan’s user limit to 10 (from 50 users). Connecteam also reduced the user seats of its paid options (from 50 to 30) and adjusted the monthly base fee (with pricing reductions of around $10 to $72).
Connecteam is our top pick for managing employee tasks because its communication tools, online checklists, and task automation keep everyone on top of work assignments while digitizing routine tasks with just a few clicks. In addition to creating and assigning tasks, you can add subtasks, due dates, and detailed task descriptions, as well as attach files and images if you need to. You can even use its “Timeline” tool to track employee roadmaps, such as the dates for performance reviews and salary changes.
Its learning management tools also allow you to create courses with multiple course categories. You can even add custom quizzes and embed YouTube videos to a course. However, it doesn’t let you post jobs like Homebase and OrangeHRM do, nor can it process employee payroll (TimeTrex offers this in its free plan). Connecteam also doesn’t have the performance review tools that both OrangeHRM and TimeTrex offer for free—but its timeline tool can help you track when the reviews happen, including upcoming schedules.
Connecteam Is Featured In
Read our Connecteam review to learn more about its features.
OrangeHRM: Best Free HR Software for Managing Employee Performance Reviews
Unlike Homebase, which only monitors attendance-related performance matrices, and Connecteam, which tracks quarterly/annual review timelines, OrangeHRM lets you conduct 180-degree performance reviews at no cost. Apart from evaluating your staff’s work performance, its free Starter package comes with essential solutions for managing hiring, attendance, and employee data.
180-degree vs 360-degree Performance Reviews: 180-degree performance reviews combine an employee’s self-assessment with their manager’s assessment. A 360-degree performance review maintains those two elements while adding assessments from an employee’s direct reports, peers, and/or clients.
While these features make OrangeHRM optimal for budget-constrained business owners who want to automate basic HR tasks and employee work evaluations, it lacks the free payroll tool that TimeTrex offers and staff scheduling capabilities that the other providers in this guide have. You also can’t onboard new hires, track learning sessions, and create career development plans for employees unless you upgrade to its paid version.
Alternative Free HR Software
The six free HR management systems in this guide have the tools you need to manage essential HR processes. However, if you’re a very small business looking for an online solution to run basic HR functions at no cost, consider Zoho People. Its free plan lets you store and manage employee information and documents in an online database. Approving and tracking time off transactions are also made easy with its PTO management solution.
The downside is that its free plan is limited to only five users. If you have more than five employees, then you have to upgrade to Zoho People’s paid plans (monthly fees start at $1.50 per user), which also grants you access to additional solutions like new hire onboarding and time tracking.
How We Evaluated the Best Free HR Software
To evaluate the best free HR software for small business owners, we started with 12 providers that offer either free-to-use HR systems or have free forever plans. Then, we looked at ease of use and the depth of features—whether it offers basic tools like time tracking and an employee database or even advanced HR functionalities, such as performance reviews and learning management. We also considered user reviews from popular third-party sites (like G2 and Capterra).
The best free HR management software provides budget-conscious small businesses with online tools they can use to streamline HR tasks. Not only does it save them money, but it also helps save time since most of the free HR management systems on our list have workflow automation tools to automate processes.
In choosing the right free HR software for your business, consider your needs and whether it can handle your essential HR functions. Ease of use is also an important factor, as well as customer support and user training for new clients. If you have plans to grow, then take a look at its platform’s scalability, customization options, and pricing, in case you decide to shift from using its free version to its paid plan. You can read our buyer’s guides, where we compare many of these software’s pricing and functionalities to help you find the right option for you.