The 7 Best Payroll Solutions for Your Small Business

With so many payroll deadlines to keep track of — next up, HMRC requires you to pay your Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) and Class 1B National Insurance Contributions in October — small businesses that lack a dedicated HR or accounting team can greatly benefit from using a payroll system. These services can help you keep on top important dates and remain compliant with the law.

According to our research, Moorepay provides the best payroll service for small businesses. It tops our ranking due to its expert-based advice: Moorepay enables small business owners to contact highly-qualified consultants that can clarify any payroll issues and offer the latest information on payroll legislation changes. Having offices in the Greater Manchester area, Moorepay's also one of the best payroll companies in the UK.

What's the best payroll service for small businesses?

These are the providers we recommend based on our research. Use our cost comparison tool to find the best service for your small business.

  1. Moorepay
  2. ADP
  3. Advanced
  4. TopSource
  5. Iris Staffology
  6. MHR
  7. Payescape

With nearly 15 years' experience in the market, we know how important it is for you to find a payroll provider that's accurate, budget-friendly, and scalable.

To help you choose the service best suited to your needs, we've prepared a detailed ranking of our top seven picks. Read on to learn about them, or start comparing tailored, no-obligation payroll quotes right away using our free quote-finding service.

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Iris Staffology

Price Range

Bespoke

Price Range

Bespoke

Price Range

Bespoke

Price Range

Bespoke

Price Range

From £11.75/month

Price Range

Bespoke

Price Range

From £16.32/week or £56.20/month

Fully-managed payroll
Fully-managed payroll
Fully-managed payroll
Fully-managed payroll
Fully-managed payroll
Fully-managed payroll
Fully-managed payroll
Available as DIY software
Available as DIY software
Available as DIY software
Available as DIY software
Available as DIY software
Available as DIY software
Available as DIY software
Key Features
  • Extensive advice offering
  • Offers large suite of HR/people management solutions
  • Mobile app
  • Offers tax-related educational resources
Key Features
  • Sells HR, recruitment, and benefits management solutions
  • Provides CIPP-accredited expert payroll advice
  • Mobile app
  • Time and attendance features
Key Features
  • Pensions auto enrolment software as standard
  • In-depth reporting
  • Easy integration with other native products
  • Dedicated support centre
Key Features
  • Mobile app
  • Allows for payment of international employees
  • Sells HR and recruitment native software
  • Provides CIPP-accredited expert advice
Key Features
  • Comprehensive, feature-rich system
  • Deep-dive reporting
  • Unlimited users, employees and companies
  • Mobile app
Key Features
  • Packs a highly-detailed reporting platform
  • Offers educational material
  • Provides CIPP-accredited expert payroll advice
  • Mobile app
Key Features
  • Mobile app
  • Offers hands-on training
  • Can be used as clock-in system
  • Offers educational resources

Prices correct as of September 2023

Payroll services vs payroll software

The payroll companies we review on this page all offer payroll services, which means they enable you to outsource some or all of your payroll processes to them, for them to manage on your behalf.

However, payroll software is another option, enabling you to manage your payroll in-house using a simple software tool that will automate processes like tax deductions and HMRC reporting. The benefit of using software instead is that it gives you more control over your payroll, and, importantly, paying for software is cheaper than outsourcing to a payroll service.

While many of the companies on this page provide software as well as services, which we'll discuss in our reviews, we also strongly recommend looking into Rippling if you're interested in payroll software. Starting at £7 per user, per month, our software researchers rated its highly customisable features, bespoke reporting, and compliance assistance in our latest round of testing.

Rippling is one our our recommended payroll software solutions

Try it from £7 per user, per month

1. Moorepay

moorepay logo
Moorepay
Pricing Bespoke
Quick overview

Moorepay provides a cloud-based integrated payroll and HR platform, which allows companies to easily analyse employee data and generate reports. Established in 1966, it packs both part-managed and fully-managed services and is accredited by the CIPP Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS).

The winner of The Rewards Payroll & HR Software Product of the Year Award 2022, Moorepay boasts big names as clients, such as McDonald's, Wolkswagen, and Mountain Warehouse. It's also rated 'Excellent' on Trustpilot, with an impressive 4.5/5 score.

Strengths

Has CIPP Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS) accreditation

Allows for custom reporting

Customer service is available via phone and live chat

Weaknesses

Doesn't provide open API, preventing integration

Pricing only available through quoting

Help is not available through chatbot

Pricing
Custom
Based on factors such as number of employees and the solutions you need

What you need to know about Moorepay

Moorepay offers an easy-to-use platform with integrated payroll and HR solutions. It gives you access to UK-based payroll specialists who are available to help you with any queries, making it easier for you to get started and avoid major problems when it comes to paying your contractors.

Moorepay’s onboarding process is simple, which is great if you’re not super tech-savvy, or you want to avoid a steep learning curve. Also, like ADP, Moorepay provides CIPP-accredited expert payroll advice and offers tax-related educational resources.

Unfortunately, it doesn't allow for payment of international employees nor does it offer live training – features our experts have found in Iris Staffology.

Pento logo
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Meet Pento, an automated payroll solution that comes with reliable support from payroll experts.

2. ADP

adp logo
ADP
Bespoke
Quick overview

ADP is a business solutions giant, offering both payroll and HR services to help your business. Founded in 1949, its industry cred is second to none: in the Global Payroll Awards 2022, ADP was crowned Global Payroll Supplier of the Year. It also was named the Best International Payroll Service Provider at the CIPP Annual Excellence Awards for four consecutive years. Also, with offices in the City, it's among the best payroll companies in the UK and London we analysed.

Strengths

Allows for custom reporting

Customer service is available via phone and live chat

Offers tax education resources

Weaknesses

Doesn't provide payroll changes report

Pricing only available through quoting

Help is not available through chatbot

Pricing
Custom
Based on factors such as number of employees and the solutions you need

What you need to know about ADP

ADP has been in the payroll business for a long time, and this expertise has brought about great payroll and hiring solutions. You can integrate third-party solutions such as QuickBooks, ClockShark, and Wave to create one seamless platform to manage various aspects of your business.

Like Advanced, it also packs a powerful native suite of associated programs. This is very useful for businesses keen on keeping the number of their suppliers low, thereby saving money. Out of its native software, ADP’s hiring solution really stood out to our researchers. With it, you can run background checks, schedule interviews and send out contracts.

ADP allows you to scale as and when you need to, which means you don’t need to pay for solutions and features you don’t use. As your business grows, so does the platform. ADP’s pricing is also flexible, so you won’t find yourself stuck in an unsuitable contract. That said, it's provided only through quoting, unlike Iris Staffology's, which is advertised.

3. Advanced

advanced logo
Advanced Payroll
Pricing Bespoke
Quick overview

Advanced is an efficient cloud-based payroll software currently used by over 22,000 customers globally. Its training offering is a key asset, making it a great choice for businesses keen on implementing and getting a hold of the system quickly. Like Moorepay, it packs both fully-managed and part-managed services.

Advanced offers integration with HR, attendance and finance solutions, providing you with one comprehensive platform. In fact, we found it to be one of the best providers to integrate HR and payroll.

Strengths

Provides live training and CIPP-accredited expert advice

Allows for custom reporting

Customer service is available via phone and live chat

Weaknesses

Doesn't provide open API, preventing integration

Pricing only available through quoting

Help is not available through chatbot

Pricing
Custom
Based on factors such as number of employees and the solutions you need

What you need to know about Advanced

Advanced gives you the tools you need to deal with your payroll accurately and efficiently. As per our independent review, one of its selling points is its wide training tools, which are a plus if you're running a small accounting team.

Its live training feature is noteworthy, allowing you to have lessons with provider's personnel to get a grasp of its system quite quickly. Moorepay, for instance, doesn't offer this – although Iris Staffology does.

Furthermore, Advanced's software can be integrated with HR, attendance and finance solutions, providing you with one comprehensive platform.

Did you know?

A survey published in 2022 discovered that payroll errors can cost UK businesses up to £150,000 annually.

4. TopSource

TopSource
Bespoke
Quick overview

TopSource is a fully-managed service, taking care of every aspect of the payroll process, from registering with HMRC to end-of-year processing. Similarly to ADP, it lacks a part-managed option.

TopSource has a strength in its associated service suite, packing native solutions that are easy to integrate with its payroll system. The same provider sells HR, recruitment, and benefit management software - which is a great help to companies wanting to acquire those systems but not deal with multiple suppliers to do so.

Strengths

Excellent level of compliance

Allows for payment of international employees

Also sells HR and recruitment software

Has CIPP Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS) accreditation

Weaknesses

Pricing only available through quoting

Doesn't allow for custom reporting

Doesn't provide live training

Pricing
Custom
Based on factors such as number of employees and the solutions you need

What you need to know about TopSource

TopSource deals with every aspect of payroll from registering with HMRC to end-of-year processing. Unlike ADP, it doesn't offer a part-managed version, being only available as a fully-managed payroll solution.

If you have a global businesses, or plan to expand internationally, TopSource is a good choice as it offers compliant payroll services in over 150 countries.

Like MHR, it provides in-depth reporting. Conveniently, TopSource's Portico app that can be accessed at any time, and from anywhere. Having easy access to your payroll data makes it easy to keep a close eye on the ins and outs of the process – essential for business owners that accumulate the job of their company's accountant.

The pricing is bespoke, so its difficult to judge from the outset if it will fit into your budget. Other providers such as Payescape offer transparent pricing, but this is still rare in the payroll world.

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5. Iris Staffology

iris staffology scorecard
Iris Staffology
Pricing From £11.75/month
Quick overview

Staffology is a HMRC-recognised payroll software, which makes submitting the necessary forms online that much more seamless. Created in 2018, it was acquired by software powerhouse Iris in 2021, being rebranded as Iris Staffology.

Its cloud-based interface allows you to control your payroll from both desktop and mobile hardware, as well as modify the program to suit your needs. For business owners who’d like to extend its capabilities, it also packs a native HR solution.

Strengths

Plentiful accounting and HR integrations

Transparent pricing

Extensive training features

Weaknesses

Doesn't provide payroll changes report

Doesn't allow users to create custom reports

Clock-in feature isn't available on mobile app

Pricing
FeesPrice per month
Base price £10
Payslip fee for companies with up to 20 employees £2/employee
Payslip fee for companies with 21 to 50 employees £1.75/employee
Payslip fee for companies with 51 or more employees Quote-based

What you need to know about Iris Staffology

Iris Staffology packs more accounting and HR integrations than any of the providers we researched (seven and five, respectively) – which allows it to work alongside more programs than ADP (three and three) or MHR (one and three). This benefits businesses owners who want to keep their current accounting or HR software and integrate them with Iris Staffology.

Iris Staffology ensures your business complies with legislation around Automatic Enrolment, making sure you stay compliant. The platform also deals with all deductions, such as NI and statutory tax, offering business owners peace of mind by helping them stay on top of these.

On the other hand, Iris Staffology does not offer all of the steps necessary for year-end features such as, your final payment submissions (FSPs). Moorepay does offer this however it tends to be a pricier provider.

6. MHR

MHR logo
MHR
Bespoke
Quick overview

MHR boasts one of the most sophisticated hosted payroll software programs in the industry, iTrent. iTrent combines powerful payroll processing capabilities with time-saving HR functions to create a central business hub for employee data.

Founded in 1984, the company's now used by big names such as Microsoft Azure and Experian. In our independent analysis, our experts found MHR to be a good choice for business owners who want the flexibility of choosing between running payroll in-house, outsourcing or a combination of the two.

Strengths

Allows for custom reporting

Allows for payroll data to be shared across different systems

Customer service is available via phone and live chat

Has CIPP Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS) accreditation

Weaknesses

Doesn't provide live training

Pricing only available through quoting

Help is not available through email

Pricing
Custom
Based on factors such as number of employees and the solutions you need

What you need to know about MHR

MHR is an established provider in the payroll and HR industry. One of its unique features is an emergency payroll support features, where MHR will step in to provide added consultation if your team are feeling overwhelmed. This extra support is helpful for businesses who are going through complex changes or a wider expansion. In these times, it can be helpful to have the backing of added support whenever your businesses needs it.

MHR also boasts one of the most detailed report-generating on the market. It covers anything from salary modelling to insights on employee engagement and performance management. For businesses owners keen on making the most out of their employee data, this is a key asset. However, we note that, due to its sheer breadth, this makes MHR more suited to large businesses, as such deep reporting prowess is likely to be lost in smaller organisations.

If you don't want to outsource your payroll services fully, MHR is a good choice, as it offers you the choice to opt for in-house, outsourced payroll or a combination of the two. This makes MHR more flexible than solely fully-managed provider such as TopSource and means you're free to pick the right option for your businesses' unique needs.

What's new for MHR?

In September 2023, MHR started to allow CSV exports of pension contribution data by pension scheme, payment dates, and payrolls. This makes it easier for you to manage the pension information (and contributions) of your staff internally.

7. Payescape

payescape
Payescape
Pricing From £16.32/week or £56.20/month
Quick overview

Payescape offers a streamlined payroll solutions service designed to make the process as practical as possible for small businesses in the UK.

Founded in 2006, Payescape offers flexible weekly and monthly contracts. This makes it suitable for small businesses that are finding their feet and don’t want to be tied to a provider for a long term. That said, it's not the best choice for international businesses, as it doesn't allow the payment of international employees.

Strengths

Allows for custom reporting

Integrates with third-party accounting solutions

Also sells HR software

Has CIPP Payroll Assurance Scheme (PAS) accreditation

Weaknesses

Doesn't allow for payment of international employees

Lacks the ISO:27001, a key data security compliance certification

Doesn't provide payroll changes report

Pricing
Weekly pricingMonthly pricing
Base price £15 Base price £53
Extra cost per employee £1.32 Extra cost per employee £3.20

What you need to know about Payescape

Payescape offers payroll, HR, and time management solutions all on one platform, giving you a streamlined and efficient way to manage your business. You can approve and monitor holidays, record working hours, and calculate wages with this provider.

When paying contractors, it’s important to ensure you’re tracking working hours correctly. Payescape’s time management solutions, which are built into the platform, make it easy for you to prevent under or over paying an employee. They also mean you can manage compliance risks and projects more effectively.

Payescape offers the most flexible contract among the providers our researchers looked into. You can sign up for monthly or even weekly tenures. This lack of a long-term commitment makes it suitable for small businesses that are finding their feet and don’t want to be tied to a contract.

Also, unlike competitors such as ADP and MHR, Payescape advertises its prices, which makes it a natural choice for businesses that want to know this information right away to promptly make a decision on whether or not to choose this provider.

How much does payroll outsourcing cost for a small business?

Prices vary a lot but as a general guide, a business with 10 employees can expect to pay:

  • £70-£80 a month for a fully managed service with hosted software
  • £40-£60 for simple outsourcing

Generally, the fewer employees, the higher your per person payroll costs will be.

How to choose between payroll service providers

At this point you will have a clear idea of the type of outsourcing service you require – and you may even have a provider in mind. The next thing to consider is cost.

Payroll is a competitive industry, and prices vary a lot. So to ensure you’re getting the best deal for your business it’s important you compare quotes from multiple providers. That’s where Expert Market can help.

Simply click on the button below to fill in our webform and we’ll send you same-day quotes from up to six of the UK’s leading payroll service providers. The whole process takes less than a minute. It’s completely free and there’s no obligation to go with any of the companies we match you with.

So sit back and let us take the hassle out of finding the best payroll solution for your small business, because you’ve got better things to do with your time.

If you're still unsure of how to choose your payroll system, let us ask:
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What should payroll services offer?

Payroll solutions involve you outsourcing some or all of your payroll administration work to a specialist third-party company. Choose between:

Fully-managed payroll service

It does what it says on the tin. Full service payroll companies take full control of all aspects of payroll — from paying employees, to issuing payslips, generating reports and filing papers with HMRC. You can rest easy knowing your business is fully compliant with regulations.

Part-managed payroll service

A service provided by a ‘payroll bureau’ and a helping hand for businesses that want to retain some control of the process. Imagine you’re happy to continue paying your staff, but you’d like a bit of help when it comes to filing documents at the end of the tax year. A payroll bureau offers you that kind of flexibility – and at a bargain price compared to a fully managed option.

Hosted payroll software

A secure and efficient way of storing and updating data. Even if you have an experienced bookkeeper working for you in-house, your business could benefit from cloud-based payroll software. Set up alerts for missing or required data or easily distribute payslips via email. You can track expenses claims and benefits safe in the knowledge that everything is backed up on secure servers.

What should payroll software offer?

Payroll software can be as simple or as comprehensive as you like. At a basic level, payroll software provides you with the tools to run payroll automatically. This means less manual errors and monthly stresses. Running payroll accurately and on time is key to running your business smoothly.

Some payroll software also offer automations, employee portals and HR tools.

If you have contractors or freelancers that you want to pay differently, such as weekly or on an ad-hoc basis, look for software that will allow you to do this.

Payroll outsourcing: what are the benefits?

Five reasons why outsourcing your payroll makes total sense for small business owners:

  1. It will save you money. Despite the cost of outsourcing payroll, it's still cheaper than hiring trained staff to do the work in-house and small business can benefit from these savings.
  2. It will save you time. Pension, tax, BACS, payslips, National Insurance, RTI, reporting, holiday, benefits — just a few of the things you’ll need to take care of if you choose to handle payroll yourself. Oh, and don’t forget everything else you’re supposed to be doing.
  3. It will save your neck. Filing payroll documents late or with inaccurate information can incur a hefty penalty fine. Don’t give HMRC another reason to come after you.
  4. It reduces error. An underpaid worker is an unhappy worker. Payroll service providers get things right, first time.
  5. It’s watertight. Because you don’t have time to scrutinise the figures each month. Sophisticated software can alert you to time and rates abuse and other shady dealings.

Important payroll dates recap

Important payroll dates lie on the horizon, with a couple of important ones coming up in October. Payroll system can certainly help you keep on top of them, but in any case, it pays to be aware of them. To help you out, here's a brief recap of the most important payroll dates.

DateWhat happens
5 April– The 2022/2023 tax year ended

– Deadline for payroll software update

6 AprilThe 2023/2024 tax year began
19 AprilDeadline for final 2022/2023 tax year reports submission
22 AprilDeadline for the month 12 Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) payment
31 MayDeadline for your employees to receive their P60s (earning statements)
6 July– Deadline for expenses and benefits report to the HRMC

– Deadline for P11D and P11D(b) forms submission

19 JulyDeadline for PAYE and Class 1A National Insurance contributions (if you're not using digital systems to do so)
22 JulyDeadline for PAYE and Class 1A National Insurance contributions (if you're using digital systems to do so)
19 OctoberDeadline for PAYE and Class 1B National Insurance contributions (if you're not using digital systems to do so)
22 OctoberDeadline for PAYE and Class 1B National Insurance contributions (if you're using digital systems to do so)
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Verdict

Our top payroll pick for small businesses is Moorepay. We love its easy-to-use platform, and the fact that you can access integrated HR and platform tools.

If you're still unsure and on the hunt for a payroll platform, you can use our free quote-comparison tool to find providers suited to your business. Through it, you'll be matched with trusted providers and they'll then contact you with bespoke quotes.

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.

 

FAQs

What's the difference between payroll services and software?
Payroll software is a software that helps you run payroll. This can include automations, tools, and forms to assist you.

Payroll services involve outsourcing your payroll to a third-party provider, which will run payroll for you. This can be fully or partially managed, so you can decide how much of your payroll you want to keep in-house.

How much does a payroll service cost in the UK?
Payroll services usually cost £1 to £8 per employee per month, with additional services, such as integrated HR and pension plan auto-enrolment, costing extra.
Which payroll company is best in the UK?
Moorepay to be best payroll company in the UK according to our independent research, due to its comprehensive support and HR integration. On the latter, as far as integrated HR and payroll software go, Moorepay's ease of use is a key asset of the provider.
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.