Professional employer organization companies, or PEO companies, allow small businesses to outsource their employee management tasks like benefits, payroll, recruiting and training. The best PEO companies also have the buying power to negotiate and offer small businesses affordable employee health insurance. We looked at the most popular and decided to showcase six of the best PEO companies for small business that covered the range of options in terms of services, reputation, ease of use and cost.
If you would like an expert opinion on which PEO to choose, we recommend The Huldisch Group. They are a free-to-use PEO broker who can match you with a PEO based on your business location, industry, size and services required.
Best PEO Companies Summary Table
|Justworks||Best overall for most small businesses with less than 100 employees because of price, features and ease of use. They’re also the lowest cost PEO.|
|Oasis Outsourcing||Best for high-risk and regulated industries like financial services and light manufacturing, due to their industry-specific services and expertise.|
|XcelHR||Best for employers who want to add employee engagement tools, such as performance and talent management to their bundle of PEO services.|
|TriNet||Best for multistate employers who want to offer affordable benefits for on-site and off-site staff|
|ADP TotalSource||Best for those who want to work with one of the largest providers or who are upgrading from ADP Payroll, ADP Run or ADP Workforce Now|
|Paychex||Best for those who want on-site HR/payroll consulting as part of their PEO|
How We Evaluated PEO Companies
Although small businesses don’t often need the more advanced features of a PEO, such as applicant tracking or government contracting compliance, we evaluated PEO companies that had these features because they may become necessary as small businesses grow. When your business grows, you’re not going to want to change your HR/payroll outsourcing company every 20 employees or so.
Therefore, we only considered PEO companies that offer options to support your business now as well as support your future growth. This includes features like:
- Payroll and tax processing
- Health insurance
- Paperless onboarding
- HR compliance, HR management and strategic HR consulting
- Performance management
- Recruiting and applicant tracking
- Time and attendance
- Employee self-service
- Risk and safety compliance
- Government contracting support
The prices for PEO companies vary significantly depending on employer size, location, and business credit scores. Your workers’ compensation and insurance experience can also affect your pricing. Note that any insurance, workers’ comp, employee benefits or 401(k) contributions paid by your business are extra. For example, if you choose to contribute $100 toward each employee’s monthly healthcare premiums, that pretax cost is in addition to the administrative fee you pay to the PEO.
Best PEO Company for Small Businesses: Justworks
We recommend Justworks as the best PEO for small business because it meets the basic needs of most small businesses, is easy to set up and access for the small business owner and is the most affordable PEO service of all the outsourced HR options we considered.
For example, the self-service interface shown below is user-friendly for both you and your employees, serving as a one-stop shop for everything people related — HR, benefits and payroll.
Justworks offers a full suite of services, so you can rest easy knowing that your health insurance, payroll, benefits and even employee perks like commuter passes (if your employees need them) are taken care of.
Justworks prices range from $49 to $99 a month per employee, depending on how many employees you have and which of the plans you choose. For example, a company with 10 employees will pay $49 per month per employee for the Basic plan or $69 for the Plus plan that includes benefits. It’s the only PEO we reviewed that offers fixed rates and has discounts available if you pay annually.
What’s nice about Justworks as compared to most PEOs that price as a percentage of your total payroll is that you’ll know your prices up front. There are no step-up fees other than what’s shown below. If you employ more than 100 people, its Enterprise plan is priced by quote.
Justworks Pricing Table
|Pricing for 2-4 Employees|
|Pricing for 5-24 Employees|
|Pricing for 25-99 Employees|
|Full Payroll & Tax Compliance|
|Life and Disability Insurance|
|401(k) Savings Plans|
Justworks offers software as a service (SaaS) as part of its PEO, which means that it’s easy for both you and your employees to use whether you’re updating employee data or running reports. From a simple set up to live chat support, which most PEOs don’t offer, Justworks is all about taking the stress out of managing people.
Another reason Justworks earned our top recommendation is that it was the most transparent in its pricing and services of all the PEOs we reviewed. In addition, Justworks offers an optimized self-service option for employees via website or mobile.
Some of Justworks other features include:
- Managing all payroll and taxes, including year-end W-2s and 1099s
- Paying commissions and expense reimbursements
- Managing all new hire paperwork and compliance
- Providing workers’ compensation insurance
- Managing paid time off
- Storing all employee documentation and forms electronically
- Providing all kinds of employee benefits (with an upgrade to the Plus plan)
- Offering and managing your company 401(k) plan (with an upgrade to the Plus plan)
Justworks has an intuitive Employee Dashboard that allows employees to manage their time off requests, benefits enrollment, pay stubs and tax documents. In fact, they can view all of this, including employee documents and forms, as well as a company calendar through the website or mobile application.
Even with the Basic plan, you have access to certified HR expertise via phone, email, live chat or Twitter. Justworks customer support is available 24/7 from a New York-based support team. Justworks offers HR support to your employees too, unlike other PEOs like ADP TotalSource that will send the employee back to you if they have questions.
What’s Missing From Justworks
Justworks’s online reviews are generally positive. However, among the PEOs we reviewed, it is the newest PEO company and may lack the depth of experience of some of the larger PEOs like Oasis Outsourcing, TriNet or ADP that have been around for more than 20 years.
Best PEO Company for Regulated Industries: Oasis Outsourcing
We recommend Oasis Outsourcing as the best PEO for regulated industries like manufacturing, banking, and financial services. It caters to specific industries with an emphasis on risk management in addition to its HR, payroll and benefits services. Its employee-leasing model leaves you free to focus on your core business while it manages the rest.
Oasis provides a great infographic on PEOs to help you decide if its offerings are right for you, suggesting that even companies with 10 or fewer employees should consider the benefits of working with a PEO. The image below illustrates how the company partners with you, the client, to provide support across the full HR lifecycle. Of all the vendors we reviewed, Oasis provides the most strategic support within its service, including hands-on assistance with compensation analysis, risk avoidance and employee-relations issues for instance.
Oasis Outsourcing Pricing
Oasis Outsourcing doesn’t have standardized per employee pricing because, like many of the older and more established PEOs, its prices vary based on the services you want. It offers a per-check fee (salary-based) or a per-person, per-month fee. Prices range from about $100 to $125 per month and include dedicated HR consulting services.
In fact, we spoke with a broker at The Huldisch Group who confirmed that Oasis would likely be priced closer to Justworks, charging a small employer about $99 a month per employee, rather than ADP, which might charge closer to $220.
Oasis Outsourcing Features
Oasis has been in the HR outsourcing business for more than 20 years and, like TriNet and other PEOs, it offers the entire range of services that includes HR, benefits, payroll, risk management, labor law compliance and even assistance with small businesses that do government contracting.
Other services include:
- Payroll and records management as well as payroll reports
- Time and attendance and leave management
- Staffing and electronic onboarding
- Personalized assistance creating policies and handbook
- Employee relations assistance
- Training and development, including safety training
Because it is the largest privately held PEO company, Oasis has the flexibility to tailor services and offerings to fit your needs. In addition, its experience in regulated and high-risk industries is why it offers strategic consulting service and provides robust training. For more information, check out our Oasis Outsourcing review.
Oasis Outsourcing provides online and Internet-based self-service giving employees secure touch-ID login access (iOS only) for security. Employees can look up and view tax and payroll information, 401(k) plan and time-off balances and even access employee discounts.
Employees and administrators can open help desk tickets online. In addition, Oasis’s HR consultants, called “Client Solutions Managers,” provide personal assistance to employees and employers on everything from creating an employee handbook to reviewing a policy or updating job descriptions.
Help is available by phone or email and employees are provided with their own phone number to call if they have questions. The customer support hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.
What’s Missing From Oasis Outsourcing
Oasis’s support hours are somewhat limited and you have to navigate an annoying phone menu to reach the right person. Therefore, it may not be best for small businesses working evening and weekend hours like the foodservice, retail or entertainment industries. In addition, its PEO doesn’t manage payments to 1099 contractors whereas most of the other PEOs do.
Best PEO Company for Employee Productivity & Performance Tools: XcelHR
We recommend XcelHR as the best PEO for employee productivity and performance tools in addition to all the features you’d expect from a PEO. For example, it allows you to survey your employees, manage your talent pool and conduct professional employee performance reviews. It also assists you in hiring as well as all stages of the employee lifecycle as shown below.
Working with XcelHR would make your employees feel as if they were employed by a Fortune 500 company with best-practice HR functions and support.
XcelHR, like many other PEOs, doesn’t provide pricing without evaluating your business first. However, the PEO broker we talked to believed that XcelHR’s pricing is on the more affordable end of about $120 a month per employee. This is closer to Oasis at $100 and Justworks at $99 for full benefits administration, even with the smallest employee base.
XcelHR offers the same services for HR administration, payroll processes, tax compliance, and benefits as the other PEO services, but focuses a bit more on the employee experience. For example, employees can upload photos of key documents like signed I-9s.
XcelHR also offers:
- Payroll and tax administration
- Paperless resources for employees, such as access to forms and employee handbook
- Time off reporting
- Talent management
- Benefits including health insurance and other benefits to improve employee retention
- Risk management through compliance and monitoring
- Retirement services like 401(k) plans
Employees can meet many of their own HR, benefits and payroll needs using the online portal or the mobile app. In fact, XcelHR’s mobile app has common sense features like being able to take a photo of a signed document, rather than having to attach it to email or send it via fax.
XcelHR has six locations in the United States and the best way to receive support is to contact the location nearest you by phone. It also provides an online form that you or your employees can complete and it’ll call or email you in return. It doesn’t have a call center and office hours are specific to the location nearest your business, typically Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What’s Missing From XcelHR
While XcelHR generally has good reviews, if there is one complaint it’s that its support team may take a while to get back to you. With only six offices (compared to Paychex with more than 100), it may not have an office near you.
Best PEO Company for Small Businesses with Employees in Multiple States: TriNet
We recommend TriNet as the best PEO for small businesses with employees in multiple states. Its purchasing power allows it to offer great benefit rates to even the smallest companies, including those employing remote staff in rural areas where few healthcare plans are available.
Being so large and established for 28 years, it has negotiated many benefit vendor contracts. It also provides employees with discounts on everything from cellphones to car rentals and theme park tickets. Staff can purchase discounted services directly from the employee self-service portal.
TriNet’s pricing is based on variables that include your industry, your company size and what location you’re in. For example, prices in New York range from $125 to $155 per month. One of the benefits of TriNet is that you can sign up anytime, even mid-year, and you won’t have any tax resets. It will give you credit for what’s already been paid. Sample tiered pricing is shown below:
- $155/month per employee for 5-9 employees
- $140/month per employee for 10-19 employees
- $135/month per employee for 20-29 employees
- $125/month per employee for 30-49 employees
TriNet services cover the full HR lifecycle, from onboarding to payroll, benefits, timekeeping and expense reimbursement. Onboarding is done online and so benefit enrollment using their user-friendly portal. In addition, TriNet also provides:
- Paperless onboarding
- Applicant tracking for recruitment
- Performance management
- Time and attendance
- HR-compliance training on topics like avoiding sexual harassment and discrimination
- Strategic HR consulting
TriNet lets your employees access their own information using an online portal or mobile app. In fact, TriNet’s mobile app lets employees do just about anything they need to from requesting time off, searching for people in the company directory, viewing their payroll, pay stub and tax information and even keeping track of all their benefits.
TriNet offers phone and email support Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to midnight Eastern time. However, it does not offer live chat and some online reviewers found TriNet’s email support frustrating.
What’s Missing From TriNet
TriNet isn’t the low-cost leader. In other words, when you sign up, you get it all but you also pay for it. Other vendors like Paychex and XcelHR let you choose only the specific services you need and price accordingly.
Best PEO Company from an Industry Leading Payroll Service: ADP TotalSource
We recommend ADP TotalSource, which is ADP’s PEO option, as best for those who want to work with an established payroll provider or those upgrading from a prior ADP payroll platform. Making the transition to a PEO with a provider you’re already familiar with makes your transition easier.
ADP TotalSource Pricing
ADP TotalSource pricing is based on several factors including your credit rating, workers’ compensation rating and health insurance experience. While we couldn’t get an exact price, we spoke with a PEO broker and to a member of ADP’s sales team to find that, on average, you can expect to pay between $120 and $240 per month per employee.
ADP TotalSource Features
ADP TotalSource offers a co-employment solution based on its 60 years in the payroll service industry. TotalSource provides all the same services as other PEOs like TriNet and Oasis Outsourcing in an all-inclusive package that covers:
- HR onboarding
- Payroll and tax processing
- Benefits administration and insurance (group and/or individual)
- 401(k) plans
- Timekeeping and attendance tracking
- Workers’ compensation
- Performance reviews
- Applicant tracking
Using ADP TotalSource’s MyADP portal function, employees and contractors can view year-end W-2s and tax documents as well as pay stubs. Depending on the features chosen for your company, ADP’s mobile app also provides access to self-service features like timekeeping and benefits. However, ADP’s app isn’t nearly as comprehensive as what’s provided by TriNet or Justworks.
ADP’s customer support includes access to HR and payroll professionals who can assist you. However, ADP prefers that you manage your own employee issues and only provides online help or a form for employees to fill out and submit. For example, if an employee can’t log in to view his or her pay stub, ADP won’t offer assistance and the employee will need to come to you for help resetting his or her password.
What’s Missing From ADP TotalSource
ADP TotalSource isn’t as integrated with other ADP products as it should be. Each product — ADPRun, ADP Workforce Now and ADP TotalSource — is managed in separate divisions of the same company. In addition, as a co-employer of your staff, ADP probably won’t provide the employee experience you want. Other HR support-oriented PEOs like Oasis and Paychex provide better HR support, including assisting with employee relations issues.
Best PEO Company for On-site HR Consulting Services: Paychex
We recommend Paychex as best PEO for small businesses that want the benefit of certified HR generalists to provide on-site consulting. With HR staff available in more than 100 U.S. locations, Paychex claims to be the only PEO that sends HR experts to you, so it’s more than an online co-employer. Working with Paychex is like having your own HR rep.
Another benefit of Paychex is that even though it owns all the HRIS software itself, it doesn’t require you to use all its offerings. For example, if its group workers’ compensation rates are higher than what you already pay, it won’t expect you to switch. Meanwhile, with ADP TotalSource, you only have one option for workers’ comp — its own.
Paychex PEO Pricing
Paychex bases its PEO pricing on variables like location, what states your employees work in and the number of pay periods you have. Prices start at less than $100 a month per employee if you run biweekly payroll. You can sign up with as few as five employees whereas other PEOs prefer that you have 10 or more employees to start with.
However, unlike other PEOs that price based on a percent of payroll, Paychex’s administrative fee, once you choose the services you want, includes everything except workers’ compensation, health insurance and benefits premiums, based on your business and employee choices.
Paychex PEO Features
Many are familiar with Paychex’s reputation as one of the larger payroll providers. Its PEO option builds on this payroll expertise with the addition of full-service HR, benefits and compliance offerings. As a PEO, it pools your employees with 90,000 other business’s employees to obtain better prices on benefits, insurance and 401(k) plans.
- HR, payroll and benefits administration
- Payroll and tax compliance, including year-end forms
- Benefits enrollment and health insurance plans
- 401(k) plan management
- Performance reviews
With Paychex, you can choose which features to start with and add as you go. Paychex allows the business itself to determine (and pay for) the various HR features it wants to use.
However, joining Paychex’s PEO requires you meet its robust criteria. For example, to protect its existing clients, it only takes on new businesses that don’t add risk. That means it’ll evaluate your company, run a background check, check your credit and look into your business’s unemployment history and workers’ compensation claims before agreeing to be your co-employer.
Paychex offers an employee services portal for your staff to manage their own tax deductions, view and print their pay stubs and, depending on your setup, enroll in benefits or sign up for online classes. However, Paychex’s self-service portal is menu oriented and antiquated, unlike self-service portals with other PEOs like Justworks and TriNet, which are much more intuitive to use.
Paychex does have a mobile app for employees to access pay slips, W-2 forms and to update personal information like name, address and direct deposit bank accounts. However, it’s not as robust as other sites in terms of allowing users to request PTO or view benefits information from their smartphones.
Paychex provides support to your employees via online help documents. It provides phone and email to you as an administrator 24/7. In addition, if you need help with HR-compliance questions, it provides certified HR staff who can work with you remotely or at your work site.
What’s Missing From Paychex PEO
Paychex software isn’t as up-to-date as most of the other PEO providers we reviewed. In addition, its due-diligence process may mean that companies in riskier industries, such as construction or light manufacturing, may not be accepted for co-employment unless they have no prior workers’ compensation claims.
The most important piece of advice when it comes to partnering with a PEO company is to do your own due diligence. You want your PEO as an HR outsourcing vendor to be financially stable and to offer excellent customer service and employee support. You also need to balance affordable insurance and health benefit options for your employees with reasonable administrative fees for you.
We suggest getting quotes from multiple PEOs. This will provide you with more information and guide you to the right choice. While we at FitSmallBusiness use TriNet to support our remote workforce, the best PEO for you might be based on other factors.
Therefore, we recommend you contact a PEO broker like The Huldisch Group to get an expert opinion on which PEO is best for your specific needs. Its PEO broker services are free.