IRIS Payroll Basics Review: Will it Suit Your Small Business?

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Tired of those ‘free’ payroll software providers that sneak in hidden fees wherever they can, hoping you won’t notice? IRIS Payroll Basics could change things for you.

It’s a bare-bones, free payroll software solution for small businesses and startups, with a focus on standard features like HMRC and GDPR compliance and automatic reporting.

While it’s ideal for small businesses that intend to keep their headcount below 10, fast-growing startups with complex payroll needs will likely see it as more of a stepping stone to paid software or an outsourced payroll service.

If you’re not sure about IRIS Payroll Basics or you’re torn between it and another similar provider, below you’ll find everything you need to know to make a final decision.

Iris Payroll Basics Overview

Best forFree, straightforward payroll processing for small businesses
FeaturesAutomatic compliance calculations, report generation, free software updates, HMRC-recognised and RTI-compliant
Data securityGDPR-compliant, automatic data backups
Support resourcesLarge support library, detailed problem-solving guides, general business resources
ScalabilityAccommodates up to nine employees, upgrade to IRIS Payroll Business available
Customer supportLive chat and phone assistance
  • Free for businesses with fewer than 10 employees
  • HMRC-recognised and RTI-compliant
  • Auto enrolment-compliant
  • Free software updates
  • Limited to businesses with under 10 employees
  • Although GDPR-compliant, security protocols aren’t very thorough
  • Lacks the advanced features of many of its paid competitors
  • No email customer support channel

What Is IRIS Payroll Basics?

As its name suggests, IRIS Payroll Basics is a slim payroll software solution focused on providing the most basic payroll processing capabilities. It’s ideal for startups and small businesses looking to streamline payroll and save time without incurring any extra expenses.

How Much Does IRIS Payroll Basics Cost?

IRIS Payroll Basics is 100% free, although it’s only for businesses with less than 10 employees.

IRIS Payroll Basics Features

Let’s take a look at the key features you can expect from the platform. Although pretty basic, these features pull their weight, saving time and reducing errors.

  • Automatic compliance calculations: IRIS Payroll Basics automatically calculates tax and insurance withholdings like PAYE and NI contributions. It creates pension reports for each employee to ensure compliance with the automatic enrolment requirement for eligible employees.
  • Report generation and printing: IRIS Payroll Basics can automatically generate nicely formatted employee reports at any time you need them. For the first 30 days after you download, it will even print these reports and any needed payslips for free.
  • Free software updates: Whenever necessary updates become available, IRIS allows you to download and install them for free—whether they’re operations-related or compliance-related.
  • HMRC-recognised and RTI-compliant: Not only is IRIS Payroll Basics compliant with HMRC, but it integrates directly with the HMRC government website via RTI (Real-Time Information) technology. This means you can submit tax forms and other documents to HMRC online, in real-time, with no communication issues.

Although these features are undoubtedly helpful, they’re also just as undoubtedly expected from any payroll software provider in the modern age. As free software, IRIS Payroll Basics lacks many of the more innovative features—like customisable interfaces and HR software integrations—offered by paid competitors like MHR, ADP, and Frontier.

IRIS Payroll Basics Security

IRIS Payroll Basics is fully GDPR-compliant. This entails:

  • Data minimisation: IRIS Payroll Basics collects and stores only the data necessary for payroll processing.
  • Consent and transparency: The software ensures that clear consent is obtained before data is processed and that users are aware of how their data will be used.
  • Secure data processing: Although encryption isn’t a must under GDPR, IRIS Payroll Basics takes all necessary security measures to protect user data from unauthorised access.
  • Breach notification: If a breach happens, the software will automatically notify users, managers, and potentially even authorities, immediately. It also backs up any new data every time it’s used, which means breaches won’t result in any significant operational downtime.

Of course, GDPR compliance is a commendable minimum standard for a payroll software solution. But if your employees’ personal data is especially sensitive and preventing a data leak is a top priority for you, we highly recommend you look through our other top payroll software solutions

ADP, for example, is compliant with GDPR and ISO 9001 and 27001 certifications, SOC 1 and 2 reports, PCI DSS, and Sarbanes-Oxley regulations – and if you’d like to find out more, check out our ADP review.

IRIS Payroll Basics Support Resources

As a whole, IRIS offers a huge amount of support resources. 

For specific problem-solving help, its ‘knowledge base’ contains hundreds of detailed instructional guides for common roadblocks. For more general information, you can find blog posts, case studies, business guides, events webinars, and even four separate IRIS podcast channels with advice and insight from industry experts.

All that said, we couldn’t find many other support resources dedicated to the Payroll Basics software. This means that you’ll need to directly contact customer support for help with any specific issues you encounter.

IRIS Payroll Basics Scalability

As may seem obvious, IRIS Payroll Basics isn’t particularly scalable. After all, it’s a free payroll software solution for businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

That said, it is scalable in two ways:

  1. If you’re just getting a startup off the ground, you might be paying just a single employee. In that scenario, Payroll Basics can assist you as you scale up from one employee to nine.
  2. IRIS enables the seamless transition of all your employee data and payment information from IRIS Payroll Basics up to the first tier of paid software—IRIS Payroll Business. This plan supports payroll for up to 100 employees, upgraded online and phone support, and much more in-depth reporting capabilities.

IRIS Payroll Basics Customer Support

For a slimmed-down, free payroll software, IRIS offers a surprisingly dense customer support network.

The company provides a live chat option for all customers, regardless of the software they use. It also delineates separate, dedicated phone support numbers for each of the different software solutions—including IRIS Payroll Basics.

The only concern we found is that IRIS doesn’t provide email support channels for all of its software products—and Payroll Basics is one of them.

Still, this is a step up from a payroll software provider like MHR, which strangely offers no email help channels at all.

How We Reviewed IRIS Payroll Basics

We conduct all of our payroll software reviews by analysing the provider’s offerings in the most important categories for practical business use: cost, features, security, support resources, scalability, and customer support. These categories were chosen based on our experts’ deep experience of what matters in the payroll and finance spaces.

For this review, one of our independent payroll experts took a deep dive into IRIS’s website and collated the highlights—and drawbacks—of the Payroll Basics software in one place for you to review.


IRIS Payroll Basics is a free payroll solution tailored to small UK businesses with less than 10 employees. 

It offers most features expected of payroll software, including automatic tax and pension calculations and RTI-compliant submissions to HMRC. Although it is GDPR-compliant, the software’s security protocols are not up to par with those of some of its paid competitors—nor is its scalability.

Overall, IRIS Payroll Basics is a solid entry-level option for startups and very small businesses that need both payroll software and ultra-low overhead expenses.

IRIS Payroll Basics FAQs

Who is IRIS Payroll Basics for?
IRIS Payroll Basics is a free payroll software solution that provides only the most basic and necessary payroll features. As such, it’s ideal for businesses with under 10 employees and relatively straightforward payroll requirements.
Does IRIS Payroll Basics support RTI submissions to HMRC?
Yes. Since IRIS Payroll Basics integrates directly with HMRC, you can submit forms and other information online using RTI (Real-Time Information) technology. This means your submissions to HMRC will happen more frequently, take less time, and contain only fully updated information.
What does IRIS do?
IRIS is a software company that provides solutions for businesses of all sizes. It specialises in accounting and financial management software, payroll software, HR and education management software, and biometric systems and technology.
Written by:
Robbie holds a BSc in Accounting and Finance from Centenary University, New Jersey. He’s worked as a staff accountant at Unity Bank and Kering (Gucci, Balenciaga), focusing on financial reporting, account reconciliation, and complex accrual analysis. In addition to banks and private companies, Robbie also has experience working in the luxury hospitality and construction sectors, giving him a well-rounded understanding of each sector’s unique needs.