The 5 Best Free Payroll Software


They say the best things in life are free – does that include payroll software?

We’ve made it easy for you to browse the best free payroll software available and find out if it’s a good fit for your business.

Compare and save on payroll software

We’ve done all the hard work so you don’t have to, and found the best free payroll software on the market.

  1. IRIS – Best all-around
  2. HMRC Basic PAYE Tools – Best for checking employee’s NI number
  3. Shape Payroll – Best for ease of use
  4. Primo Payroll – Best for auto-enrolment
  5. Enrol Payroll – Best for self-service
iris logo
IRIS Payroll Basics
Pricing Free
Quick overview

IRIS Payroll Basics is an easy and free way to pay your employees if you have less then 10. This cloud-based payroll software is HMRC-recognised and RTI and Automatic Enrolment-compliant. Integration with HMRC means you don't have to worry about submitting your Year End and in-year forms. The software generates and manages mandatory employee forms and prints payslips and reports for free for 30 days.

Any legislation or business software updates are included with the platform, all for free!


HMRC compliant

Used by over 40,000 businesses

Simple and easy-to-use


Only free for very small businesses

Fairly basic

HMRC Basic PAYE Tools
Pricing Free
Quick overview

Basic PAYE Tools is HMRC'S free payroll software for businesses with fewer than 10 employees. This software allows you to check a new employees NI number, send an Employment Payment Summary and send an Earlier Year Update. The system is fairly basic and straightforward and doesn't include features that other providers offer.

BPT does not allow for auto-enrolment or supply information to your pension provider. These are drawbacks unless you're happy to carry out these tasks yourself.


Check a new employee's NI number

Can send an Employment Payment Summary (EPS)


No auto-enrolment

shape payroll logo
Shape Payroll
Pricing Free
Quick overview

Shape Payroll allows you to pay up to 3 employees for free. This package includes all their core features, such as generating payroll documents and payslips. You can easily set up and edit employee records and ensure that they're on the correct tax code. This platform is HMRC compliant and gives you the ability to automate your payroll.



HMRC compliant


Only free for businesses with up to 3 employees

Compare and save on payroll software

Primo Payroll
Pricing Free
Quick overview

Primo is a cloud-based payroll provider for those with up to 10 employees. Primo's free version includes core features such as auto-enrolment. Support-wise, there is less when compared to its paid versions but you still get email support although your emails are low priority, so don't expect swift replies.





Very limited features

Enrol Payroll
Pricing Free
Quick overview

Enrol's self-service small payroll software is perfect if you have up to 9 active employees. Of course, the self-service aspect might not be everyone's cup of tea but if you want to save your coins and don't mind the manual tasks, this could be the right platform for you.

The platform is intuitive and easy to use, great for if you don't want anything too tech-complicated.



Easy to use


Lots of manual tasks

Is Free Payroll Software Worth It?

Free software gives businesses the ability to run payroll without any overhead fees. This is super helpful at the beginning stages of a business when you might not have the funds to invest.

There are limitations with free software, as most of them only offer basic features. Paid software provides automation, comprehensive reporting and employee access. These features take away the effort and stress of manual tasks and ensure you stay compliant. Your employees are able to access their own portal and request holiday, check payslips and update their personal details.

We recommend free payroll software for micro-businesses because most providers offer free software for three to 10 employees, and you don’t need a lot of the features paid software has at this stage of your business.

As your business grows, you might find that it’s no longer sustainable to manually carry out payroll tasks or you have too many employees to qualify for free software, you can often easily scale up to a paid version.

How much does payroll software typically cost?

Paid payroll software typically costs around £10 for a basic package.

Paid payroll services are usually either fully managed or part-managed. A fully managed service tends to cost around £4–£6 per employee, per month, and pension plan auto-enrolment costs around £1.50–£2 per employee, per month. If you want HR tools, this will cost you £10–£25 per employee, per month.

Part-managed payroll services are harder to price, as this cost depends on which services you want to outsource. You can expect to pay around £2–£3 per employee, per month.

How We Test Payroll Products and Services for Businesses

We tested eight market-leading payroll products and services to evaluate them in terms of functionality, usability, data security, and customer support so we can make the most useful recommendations to UK businesses.

Our rigorous testing process means these products have been scored and rated in five main categories of investigation and 10 subcategories – in fact, we covered 56 areas of investigation in total. We then gave each category score a ‘relevance weighting’ to ensure the product’s final score perfectly reflects the needs and requirements of Expert Market readers – and that’s our product research algorithm in a nutshell!

Our main testing categories for payroll products and services are:

Control: the level of customisation and flexibility provided by the payroll software in managing and processing payroll, such as the ability to define pay periods, setup tax withholding rules, and manage employee data.

Data Security: the measures and protocols implemented by the payroll software to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive payroll information.

Expertise: the level of knowledge and guidance provided by the payroll software vendor or support team. This can include resources such as documentation, tutorials, and training materials.

Scalability: the ability of the payroll software to accommodate the growth and changing needs of a business, including the capacity to handle an increasing number of employees and support multiple locations or entities.

Customer Support: the various channels and methods available for users to seek assistance and support from the payroll software vendor, such as email or ticket-based support, phone support, or live chat.

The Expert Market Product Testing Process

how we test


There are some great options out there if you want free payroll software, although free software has a lot of limitations. Most free payroll solutions don’t offer automation, employee access or reporting.

Micro-businesses are best suited to free payroll software, while larger businesses may find it difficult to stay on top manual tasks that need to be carried out for a higher number of employees.

If you want to compare payroll quotes to find the best provider for you, you can use our free comparison tool. Just give us a few brief details and we’ll do the rest. You’ll then be contacted by trusted suppliers with no-obligation quotes.


Which is the best free payroll software in the UK?
The best free payroll software in the UK is IRIS. IRIS is an old-timer in the payroll industry and provides all the necessities for running payroll.
Written by:
Zara Chechi
Zara is a Payments Expert, specialising in writing about Point of Sale systems. With a Law Degree from City University of London, she has used her legally-honed research and analytical skills to develop expertise in the Business Services world. Featured in FinTech Magazine, she quickly became an expert in payroll, POS systems, and merchant accounts.
Reviewed by:
Heleana Neil, Business Services editor
Heleana Neil specialises in Business Services, managing the strategy and production of content for SMBs, helping businesses with the challenges and opportunities they face today. Covering everything from payroll to payment processing, Heleana uses her expertise to help business owners make better, informed decisions and grow their companies.