The best PEO companies offer full HR and payroll services and provide solid support in handling regulatory compliances, payroll tax regulations, and labor laws. PEO services should also include access to a wide range of benefits at better rates—options and pricing that, at times, you can’t normally get as a small or midsize business.
For this guide, we reviewed 14 PEO companies for small businesses and narrowed the list down to our top nine recommendations.
- Justworks: Best overall PEO, especially for companies that plan to grow larger
- Paychex PEO: Best for highly customizable PEO plans
- Rippling PEO: Ideal for businesses needing HR and IT management
- XcelHR: Leader for robust benefits, including alternative options (i.e., pet insurance)
- TriNet: Top pick for industry-specific customizable PEO services
- Insperity: Ideal for midsize businesses needing PEO services with a focus on training
- ADP TotalSource: Best for growing businesses that want the expertise of a large PEO
- Infiniti: Best for businesses needing PEO services with POS, time clock, and schedule system integrations
- Papaya Global: Leader in worldwide payroll and employer of record (EoR) services
PEO Companies Compared
All the PEO companies we reviewed offer hire-to-retire services, pay processing, payroll tax administration, year-end tax forms, enterprise-level employee benefits plans, and compliance assistance. Below are the providers’ standout features.
Starter Monthly Pricing
IRS- or ESAC-Certified
Unlimited Pay Runs
Unique Employee Benefits
24/7 Phone Support
Health advocacy services; fitness membership
Financial wellness tools
1:1 expert healthcare guidance
Home insurance, pet insurance, travel and entertainment discounts
$150/employee for a company with 25 workers*
Medical travel, adoption, legal, employee discounts, more
Employee assistance program
Both + Certification Institute
Discounts at retailers and restaurants
Fortune 500-level health benefits
$650/employee for EoR
Global health benefits
*Pricing is based on a quote we received
Top PEO Providers Quiz
Justworks: Best Overall PEO for Small and Midsize Businesses
- Limited reports and integrations
- Mobile app is limited (lack of basic employee self-service features)
- Users say the PTO tools are not robust
- Has preset payout schedules for hourly and non-exempt salaried employees (set every other Friday)
In the news: In early 2023, Justworks won five awards, including a Gold Stevie® Award for ‘Best Use of Technology in Customer Service’ and a Silver Stevie® Award for “Sales Distinction of the Year,” marking wins for the sixth consecutive year.
Justworks is an IRS- and ESAC-certified PEO with two plans, one of which includes benefits. It’s an excellent choice for small businesses with limited HR experience because of its affordability and solid PEO services. It offers payroll processing, tax filing services, and employee benefits administration. Its award-winning software also earns high praise from users for its intuitive interface. Justworks primarily serves the US but also has clients in the UK and Canada. It works primarily with agencies, professional services, and technologies.
Scoring 4.69 out of 5 in our evaluation, Justworks received perfect marks for its transparent pricing and high marks for ease of use, reputation, and our expert score. It lost points due to its limited report customization options and lack of mobile apps that allow employees to view pay slips and benefits information while on the go. Plus, unlike the PEO companies we reviewed (except Papaya Global), all of which have feature-rich HR tools, Justworks has limited learning management tools and a time-tracking solution that costs extra (monthly fees start at $20 plus $5 per employee).
Paychex PEO: Best for Businesses Seeking Highly Customized PEO Plans
In the News: Paychex won the 2023 BIG Innovation Award in recognition of Paychex Voice Assist, an artificial intelligence feature that offers the first voice-activated payroll experience on the market.
Paychex PEO offers a comprehensive suite of HR, payroll, and compliance solutions, including a wide variety of employee benefits. With 300+ solutions and services, you can have a PEO package that, aside from the essential HR and payroll tools, includes new hire screening services, medical contribution tracking for Form W-2 reporting, and retirement plan services. Other PEO companies offer preset features you can’t customize or have a product suite that isn’t as robust. Its Paychex Flex, an all-in-one HR solution, is highly rated and very easy to use.
Scoring 4.38 out of 5 in our evaluation, it lost points not only for non-transparent pricing but also for some tools costing extra. It also has some of the worst customer reviews we’ve seen, particularly when it comes to not filing payroll taxes correctly—and Paychex not honoring its guarantee. It should be noted that where those complaints are seen, Paychex has responded, offering to resolve the issue. Nonetheless, it has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and is IRS- and ESAC-certified.
Paychex PEO Overview
Rippling PEO: Best for Companies That Need Robust Integrations and IT Support
In the News: Rippling is now an official Apple Authorized Reseller. This allows customers that use Rippling Device Management to order, ship, and manage their employees’ computers right from their Rippling dashboard.
We recommend Rippling PEO for companies whose employees need IT onboarding support like issuance and management of company computers and software licenses. Rippling offers all the essential features of a PEO, from HR support to enterprise-level benefits and compliance advising to payroll tax filing services. Its modular system is unique among PEO software and makes for an intuitive interface, even with many integrations.
The platform scored 4.38 out of 5, receiving perfect marks in payroll, HR administration, and expert assessment. Its intuitive interface, efficient payroll tools, strong HR and compliance support, and flexible PEO services, which you can easily turn off to start using its HR software, contributed to its high ratings. It scored the lowest in additional non-payroll tools because users have to pay for learning management, benefits administration, and applicant tracking functionalities. Users even praised its ease of use and robust integration options.
Rippling PEO Overview
XcelHR: Best for Benefits and Compliance Support
While not ESAC- or IRS-certified, XcelHR is another excellent PEO with a wide range of services and efficient payroll and HR tools. It offers a wider range of non-standard benefits than most PEOs on our list, but we were especially impressed with the hiring and compliance reporting tools, which cover everything from ADA administration assistance to VETS annual reporting.
XcelHR also acts as an administrative services organization (ASO) to provide HR administration, payroll support, regulatory compliance, and benefits administration. However, different from a PEO, an ASO does not operate under a co-employment model. Your business remains the employer of record and is responsible for all legal obligations.
XcelHR scored 4.33 out of 5, with an excellent score for pricing because it has no setup fees and charges per employee. However, it lost a lot of points under reputation for lacking certifications and having lower user satisfaction scores than many on our list. Similar to ADP TotalSource and Paychex, it provides robust compliance help that includes safety audits and inspections to ensure that your workplace complies with OSHA regulations. While XcelHR’s online tools are generally easy to use, the software looks dated.
TriNet: Best for Industry-specific Needs
In the News: In April 2023, TriNet announced its new logo and identity that reflects its expanded business strategy, which includes its human resources information system (HRIS), Enrich Services product line, and R&D tax credit services.
TriNet offers a competitive PEO with IRS and ESAC certifications. Its claim to fame is it will customize your PEO plan according to your industry. For example, TriNet can add industry-required insurance like critical accident and illness policies for manufacturing firms, or support for fostering a good remote work culture. It also has experts on hand that can advise you on the regulations and compliances of your industry and general employment and payroll law. With its Enrich Services line, it comes close to XcelHR for a variety of benefits.
Other industries Trinet specializes in are:
- Life Sciences
- Financial Services
In our evaluation, TriNet earned an overall score of 4.18 out of 5. It scored over 4 out of 5 for HR tools, additional software, license and reputation, payroll and benefits, and our expert score. It lost points because its pricing is not transparent. The quote we received is pricey, but it alone reduces the price for certain payroll milestones—although the overall cost seems higher based on the quote we got. User reviews also say it’s expensive.
Insperity: Best for Midsize Businesses Wanting Complete PEO Services Focused on Training
With over 30 years of experience, Insperity is another big PEO company like ADP and Paychex. It has 70 offices across the US, so its specialists know their regions well, and it’s ESAC- and IRS-certified. It is best for midsize businesses that want a strong HR partner and robust training tools. It even has extensive training options for both employees and managers, some of which translate into professional education unit credits.
Insperity scored 4.18 out of 5 in our rubric, with perfect marks for additional payroll tools, and high marks for reputation and our expert score. Non-transparent pricing and limited how-to guides contributed to its low scores. Plus, while Insperity generally has a user-friendly interface, learning to navigate through all of its features may take some time. Several reviews by real-world users mentioned its steep learning curve. If you want a PEO service with an intuitive platform, we recommend Justworks or Rippling.
ADP TotalSource: Best for Growing Businesses Needing a PEO
ADP’s PEO services, ADP TotalSource, is a goliath among PEOs in size and range. Similar to Paychex and Insperity, it offers over 30 years of HR expertise and experience and a wide set of features and products to choose from. It’s ESAC- and IRS-certified, as well as certified by the Certification Institute. It’s ideal for a growing business that may want to start with simple payroll and HR, then transition into full PEO services when it needs expert assistance in managing day-to-day HR tasks. Able to handle even thousands of employees, ADP TotalSource is a great choice for companies that expect to expand business operations.
Overall, it scored 4.10 out of 5 in our evaluation. It earned excellent points in HR tools and licensing. It posted the lowest score in pricing because, unlike Justworks and Papaya Global, it isn’t fully transparent. Many users even complained about ADP’s pricing complexity, including having received confusing billings. Others also mentioned that while its support team is generally reliable, they sometimes experience difficulties contacting a customer representative. It also has some of the highest scores for its mobile apps.
ADP TotalSource Overview
Infiniti: Best for Businesses Needing POS, Time Clock, and Schedule System Integrations
- US only—no international services
- No LMS or learning management courses available
- Not ESAC-certified
Infiniti HR is an IRS-certified PEO service that offers customizable end-to-end HR services for businesses of any size. It specializes in direct and local human contact, showing that it’s all about people and not technology. Infiniti offers PEO & ASO services where they bundle HR, payroll, Fortune 500-level benefits, workers’ comp, and compliance so you can focus on your day-to-day work. Additionally, their point-of-sale (POS), time clock, and scheduling services are part of their PEO at no additional cost.
Infiniti HR scored 4.08 out of 5 overall, with near perfect marks for its payroll and benefits features. It also scored well for its ease of use due to dedicated customer service and easily accessible software. Low marks were received in our evaluation of additional software, such as their lack of LMS and learning management features.
Additionally, Infiniti is US-based only and does not offer international services, like many others on our list (e.g., Justwork, ADP TotalSource, and Rippling). While there were no user reviews on sources like G2.com or Capterra, the Apple App Store reviews were quite low–citing that the mobile app was not user friendly and needed updating.
Infiniti HR Overview
Papaya Global: Best for Worldwide Payroll & Compliance Support
Papaya Global tops our list for the best international payroll services as it can help you with hiring international employees and managing benefits. Here, we chose it as the best PEO for international businesses because its Employer of Record (EoR) services include immigration law compliance support, payroll, and HR liabilities in over 160 countries. It has local representatives in each country it works with.
Overall, it earned a score of 3.86 out of 5 in our evaluation. As a global PEO, it’s more expensive; also, the stated prices are “starting at” so you need to call for a tailored quote. It also charges startup fees, which it does not specify. It also has an intuitive interface praised by real-world users for tools that are easy to learn and use. However, unlike ADP TotalSource, Paychex, and Justworks, Papaya Global isn’t IRS- and ESAC-certified. Plus, it doesn’t offer employee development tools that professional employer organization companies like ADP TotalSource and Insperity have. These factors prevented Papaya Global from climbing higher on our list.
Papaya Global Overview
How We Evaluated the Best PEO Companies
We examined 14 top-of-the-line professional employer organization companies for essential HR and payroll tools small businesses need, weighing attributes accordingly. We considered size, special features, user feedback, and more. Overall, Justworks ranked highest among small business PEOs.
To see our full evaluation criteria, click through the tabs in the box below.
15% of Overall Score
We looked for providers with transparent pricing, zero setup fees, and charges on a per-employee basis. Most PEOs in this guide do not list their pricing online and require you to call and get a custom quote—except for Justworks and Papaya Global, which publish pricing information on their websites. Rippling also lists its rates online, but only its starter monthly fees. Those with per-employee pricing include Justworks, ADP TotalSource, TriNet, and Papaya Global. Also, Paychex, Insperity, and ADP TotalSource have setup fees, though quite a few waive these if asked.
20% of Overall Score
Every PEO should provide Fortune-500 benefits, onboarding, and basic employee management. Thus, we looked for the standouts: free ELPI or accepting 100% liability (like Papaya), recruiting assistance, and industry and safety experts. We also gave points for international reach.
5% of Overall Score
Here, we looked for time and attendance software—which Trinet and Insperity include, and most of the others charge extra for—and learning management tools. Only Papaya lacked an LMS, but ADP, Rippling, and Insperity stood out by offering certifications or professional credits with their courses.
10% of Overall Score
We gave more weight to reputation in this update, digging deeper into certifications, user reviews, and years in service. We also considered reviews by the employees themselves, since a high turnover in your PEO can affect the quality of service you receive.
20% of Overall Score
PEOs all handle payroll and tax filing, so we again looked for standouts: paycards, flexible patent schedules, extra benefits, and international payroll. We also looked for POS integration, which can make payroll processing easier for retail and restaurants; Paychex and ADP offer this, with Rippling possibly allowing it, although it was not specifically mentioned.
10% of Overall Score
While all the products on our list offer great features, this criterion looked at how well they worked for the needs of small businesses, especially those on a budget. Justworks and Rippling earned 5 out of 5 here, although every product earned high marks, as would be expected in a best-of list.
20% of Overall Score
In addition to having helpful features like mobile apps, how-to guides, dedicated representatives, and customer support options, we looked at user reviews from third-party sites like G2 and Capterra. Then, we averaged the ratings on a 5-star scale, wherein an average of 4.5+ stars is ideal.
How to Choose the Best PEO Provider
You may find that more than one of the PEOs on our list appeals to you, or a friend or fellow business owner might recommend someone to you. How can you find the best provider for you?
Consider these factors when doing your in-depth research:
- Services: At a bare minimum, a PEO should take care of payroll and taxes, benefits and PTO tracking, and provide HR support. From there, ask for the details that mean the most to your business. That could mean paycards instead of direct deposit, paying global contractors, or assisting with recruiting and hiring employees. Have a list of what you need, want, and would like to have.
- Cost: Be clear about whether the cost is per person per month, per person per payroll, or by percentage of payroll. Also, check what is included and what costs extra. This not only means services but also the exceptions—how much are you charged to pay someone out-of-cycle, for example.
- Benefits: One of the advantages of a PEO is access to enterprise-level plans for health, dental, and vision, as well as 401(k) accounts that you might not be able to afford as a small business. However, ask about other benefits, like life or pet insurance, gym memberships or wellness programs, and even legal advice. These help you with hiring and retaining employees.
- Reputation: Reputation is determined by many things: years in service, certifications, customer reviews, and awards. If you have time, it’s always good to ask for some client names in your industry and business size, and then ask them yourself what they found good and bad about the service.
- HR representative qualifications: Look for the average number of years in the field, law degrees (especially employment law or payroll law), and areas of expertise (location, industry, specific HR issues). You should also ask about turnover; many PEO complaints come from losing their dedicated rep and having to “train up” a new one.
- Local reach: Your PEO should have people who understand the laws and specific HR needs for the areas where you have employees. This Is especially necessary when looking for global PEOs, called Employer of Record (EoR).
- Subcontractors: Some PEOs, especially global ones, subcontract to smaller local companies. If this is the case, then find out the qualifications and standards for the subcontractors working in your area.
- Contacts within the PEO: Do you get a dedicated representative or a team of experts who will be assigned to your company, or do you speak to whoever is available at the time? Having a team that knows your company can be an advantage if you have specific needs or are a startup or undergoing changes that may need dedicated focus; however, if you only have quick, simple questions, a call center of experts may give you faster responses.
- Mobile and online software: Get a demo of the software, including the employee portal, and check user reviews (such as on Capterra) to see what issues people have using it.
Advantages of Using a PEO Company
- Payroll support: PEOs take over the administration of payroll, so all you need to do is approve time sheets. Some even offer time tracking and expense management software to make it easier. They handle tax filing and payment as well.
- HR support: PEOs take over many of the duties performed by HR staff which can save you labor costs and free up your HR staff to concentrate on helping the employees with problems or improving work performance.
- Better benefits: Because PEOs work with many businesses, they have a large base of “employees.” This qualifies them for better rates and better benefits packages—something you may not be able to afford as a small business. This means lower costs for you and better benefits for your employees.
- Compliance support: PEOs keep up on federal, state, and local laws for the countries they work in, and ensure you stay aware of chances. Most have legal staff and take on liability for errors in payroll (as long as you provided correct information). They often provide you with training for state-specified compliances (like sexual harassment prevention).
- Talent acquisition: In addition to having the lure of strong benefits, many PEOs provide assistance in creating and posting job descriptions, screening employees, and of course, onboarding.
- Legal protection: Many PEOs provide legal support or offer ELPI insurance free.
PEOs are growing in popularity and use, especially among small and midsize businesses. Here are a few trends about the industry and its focus:
- PEO use growing for small businesses: According to NAPEO, PEOs provide services to 173,000 small and midsized businesses. About 11% of businesses with 10-99 employees use a PEO, with the most being 10-50 employees.
- Improving technologies: While nearly 40% of businesses are looking to improve their HR technology, PEOs are working to meet that demand. In the past year, several of the PEOs on our list have won technology awards.
- Integrations: Harvard Business Review found that employees spend as much as 9% of their work time just toggling between software. Many PEOs are working on improving integrations to prevent having to flip between software to complete tasks.
- Focus on culture: As workforces become more diverse in location and remote work, companies need to concentrate on culture.
- Improved health benefits: Along with culture comes an emphasis on wellness. “The future of PEOs is likely to see more comprehensive wellness programs, including mental health support and health initiatives,” wrote PivotalSolutions.
- Business growth: According to NAPEO, SMBs that use PEOs “grow 7% to 9% faster, have 10% to 14% lower employee turnover, and are 50% less likely to go out of business.”
PEO Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
A PEO company provides businesses with a co-employment option, allowing it to share and manage employee-related responsibilities and liabilities with you. Typically, PEOs serve as your employees’ professional employer for payroll and tax purposes. However, you still have complete control over business decisions and operations.
With its full-service human resource outsourcing services, a PEO company handles your day-to-day administrative tasks—from pay processing to benefits administration and workers’ compensation management. Risk mitigation and HR compliance support are also included in a PEO’s services. Some PEO companies even provide end-to-end talent management solutions, such as hiring, training, and employee performance reviews. A few go beyond even that, with learning management systems and recruiting.
PEO companies follow different pricing schemes, most of which are based on employee headcount. Some have flat monthly per-employee fees, while others charge a percentage of your worker’s salary. A few PEOs also consider your company’s credit rating and your employees’ health benefits history to determine pricing.
For PEOs with flat monthly pricing, expect to pay somewhere between $40–$160 per employee monthly. For PEOs that charge a percentage of payroll, the fee is about 2%–12% of payroll.
PEO companies invariably say that the biggest benefits their clients get are relief from HR administrative tasks and protection from noncompliance issues. These save their clients time and money—sometimes thousands of dollars. Studies by the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) have shown that employers using a PEO see an average ROI of 27.3% and a retention improvement of 10% or better.