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Explore our detailed guides for professional advice on international growth, recruitment, compensations strategies, and a curated list of top service providers.

15 min read

The 10 Best PEO Services for Small Businesses

PEO

Best PEO solutions for small business

How we made our top 10 small business PEO list?

We drew on our industry experience with PEOs, company websites, and user reviews in assessing hundreds of PEO services in coming up with our ratings. We formed our PEO for small business list by considering: 

Extent of Coverage Some offer services only in selected states, others only in the US, and some in any country in the world
Add-on Services Such as recruitment, HR strategy and analytics
Pricing Most SMBs are budget conscious
Insurance & benefits The quality of the service offered
Customer Support SMB owners are often time-poor and need access to comprehensive and timely customer service

SMB owners are often time-poor and need access to comprehensive and timely customer service

BEST FOR HR ANALYTICS

ADP TotalSource

ADP is one of the largest PEOs in the world, serving businesses of all sizes with both PEO and payroll processing services. The ADP TotalSource service was developed specifically for SMBs.

Key features

  • A full-service PEO providing full employee benefits, payroll, and compliance. ADP is in the elite category of US providers that are IRS-certified PEOs.
  • Recruiting support, including full-time recruiters, applicant tracking, background checks and a career site.
  • An intuitive HR platform with a new hire onboarding app (WorkforceNow) and employer dashboard. Workforce Now can help streamline and automate processes like onboarding, and provide real-time data and analysis for employers. For employees, the portal enables time tracking, paystub and benefits review, as well as viewing work schedules and requesting time off. Read more in our 2023 review of ADP Workforce Now. 

Pricing

ADP does not provide pricing information on its website, but will provide a custom quote upon being contacted.

Pros

Benefits for small businesses in choosing ADP TotalSource include:

  • Better benefits than competitors —  because of its size, ADP can offer insurance and benefits from many of the nation’s largest providers
  • Expert consultation available. ADP has industry-specific experts on hand for consultation on workplace issues, taxes, benefits packages, and HR administration
  • User-friendly portal, including access for employees which enables time tracking, paystub and benefits review
  • Advanced analytics through the ADP DataCloud, allowing small businesses to quantity pay equity gaps and turnover cost, and to identify top performers. 

Cons

Potential downsides of going with this PEO include:

  • No pricing transparency — pricing only available upon consultation
  • ADP TotalSource may provide more services than needed for some small companies. For example, smaller companies may not be interested in the complex HR analytics that they nevertheless pay for as part of the package. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

ADP TotalSource provides advanced analytics for small businesses that few other providers can match. 

Our Verdict

ADPs ability to provide PEO services across the US, as well as its expert consultation services for business owners, will make this a clear top choice for many small businesses. All PEOs can help small businesses lower their premiums on insurance packages, however, ADP can also offer those low premiums from a wide range of suppliers; another bonus to the TotalSource service. This full-service PEO, though, may offer more than is necessary for business owners looking for a basic package.

Read more about ADP’s PEO services in our comprehensive review of ADP TotalSource. 

BEST FOR FLEXIBLE OFFERS

Rippling

Rippling is an impressive newcomer to the PEO and HRIS (HR Information Systems) market. With an impressive client list, including the likes of Apple, Salesforce and Amazon, Rippling has found its niche in SME PEO and HR services — it is one of the few PEOs specifically focused on small business needs.

Rippling offers a massive variety of add-on services for small businesses. In addition to PEO and employer-of-record services offered throughout the US, and internationally, Rippling’s HR solutions include payroll processing, tax assistance and a range of different HR and compliance training services.

Key features

  • Comprehensive offering — Rippling offers more than PEO. It provides a vast range of additional services including payroll, tax compliance, Affordable Care Act (ACA) and COBRA administration, compliance courses, employee surveys and analysis, employee device management, device inventory management, corporate card management, and international expense management
  • Detailed analytics and reporting — enabled through Rippling’s strong set of integrations
  • Policy and HR document creation — lets you instantly generate HR documents such as offer letters and HR policies, and track activity. For example, you can send bulk reminders to sign certain documents.

Pricing

Rippling’s pricing starts from USD $11 per employee per month, with each add-on service increasing the price.

Pros

Advantages for small businesses who choose Rippling include the following:

  • A flexible, customizable system — each Rippling add-on service can be added through the online portal at any time, usually at an additional charge per employee per month. Although it is a newer player in the market, this plethora of growing options makes Rippling one of the most complete all-around PEO services providers available for small businesses
  • Fast payroll processing. Rippling proudly advertises “Run payroll in 90 seconds” on its homepage. This is backed up by user reviews that consistently identity Rippling as a lightning-fast and effective payroll processor
  • Configurable automated workflows. Unlike most of its competitors, Rippling integrates with nearly every other payroll and HR app, allowing you to trigger an action across all your systems. E.g., automatically send a Slack notification to an employee when payroll is processed
  • Advanced reporting — drawing on comprehensive payroll and HR data, Rippling allows you to easily build and visualize any report a business may need— such as a PTO to SOC report— through a few clicks of the button. 

Cons

Potential drawbacks of going with this PEO include:

  • Fees can get high as additional features are added to the service
  • Does not have a call center, though it does have a live chat with enviable response times. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

Rippling’s USP is data analytics for small-to-medium-sized businesses. Only Rippling allows you to easily gather all data in one place, and create highly-customized reports at the click of a button. 

Our Verdict

Tech-savvy small business owners who want to outsource as many business management tasks as possible through their PEO service will love all of the options offered by Rippling. The service will be especially helpful for small businesses working in a distributed work environment. Companies looking for a PEO-focused service rather than a configurable HR management toolbox of which PEO services are just one feature, may find other PEO services more to their liking. 

Read more about whether this PEO is the best choice for your company in our in-depth Rippling 2023 review. 

BEST VALUE-FOR-MONEY

Justworks

Justworks stands out as the most transparent, simple, and flexible of all the PEO services for small businesses on this list. Monthly rates for employees and contractors are listed right on the website; employees can be added to or moved out of the Justworks PEO system at any time with just a few clicks.

Key Features

  • The full PEO experience — the whole bundle of payroll, compliance, benefits and HR are provided to Justworks clients
  • Automated payroll and numerous integrations, with Quickbooks, Xero and more
  • Easy onboarding and employee data management, with flexible access privileges (e.g., accountant access).

Pricing 

As set out on the Justworks pricing page there are two key services: 

  • Basic plan — $59/month per employee. This covers onboarding, payroll, benefits, compliance and additional HR tools
  • Basic plus — $99/month per employee. This covers Basic, plus Medical, Dental, and Vision insurance. There is a discount after the 50th employee where the price becomes $89/month per employee. 

Pros

When you choose Justworks, benefits include:

  • Transparent pricing — all prices are clearly displayed on the Justworks pricing page.
  • Simple sign up and company onboarding process 
  • 24/7 customer support, with a call center allowing clients to talk to real humans about any problems that occur. 

Cons

Potential drawbacks of going with this PEO include:

  • Justworks offers a basic service with fewer features than some competitors. For example, Justworks does not facilitate performance management, whereas many other providers do. Though this ‘no frills’ philosophy is the reason that they are so affordable. 
  • Limited automation and analytics capability. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

Justworks explicitly sells itself on its simplicity (“Simple software + expert support for payroll, employee benefits, HR services, and compliance.”). Simplicity of use, transparent and affordable prices, and a commitment to customer support are all highly valued by small businesses.  

Our Verdict

Justworks is a great choice for small businesses with high employee turnover, small budgets, businesses who need PEO services but do not wish to tier into a long-term contract, and those who want a simple PEO solution without any optional business management add-ons.

In our view, it is the most cost-effective PEO solution available on the market today. 

BEST FOR HEALTH & SAFETY

XcelHR

XcelHR excels at recruiting and administering employees in manufacturing, skilled trades, and government contractor sectors. For small businesses in those sectors, this specialist PEO service is highly respected. XcelHR has its own recruiting program, which focuses on locating skilled manufacturing and professional tradespeople for its clients.

Key features

  • A comprehensive HR platform including a range of additional HR outsourcing services alongside its PEO offering. This includes ASO, payroll, tax, compliance and HR services alongside its PEO services.
  • Risk management services, including workers compensation negotiation, safety audits, inspections support, OSHA incident logging and health and safety training
  • Industry focus, with special reference to government contracting, skilled trades and manufacturing.

Pricing

XcelHR does not provide prices on their website. A quote customized to business and industry needs is available by calling XcelHR for a consultation at 1 (800) 776-0076 or, by filling out an online form.

Pros

XcelHR provides the following benefits to small business clients:

  • Knowledge of specific industries. Domain knowledge of manufacturing and trades in particular means an added level of compliance certainty for small businesses in those industries and vocations
  • An in-house recruiting service
  • Health and safety support and training, an area where few PEOs provide support. 

Cons

  • XcelHR is not equally suited to all small businesses and industries, and is not specifically geared towards remote work as many PEOs are
  • Lack of pricing transparency — no prices are available online. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

XcelHR puts risk management and health & safety at the center of its product offering. No other PEO provides as comprehensive a set of OSHA compliance and health and safety services. 

Our Verdict

XcelHR is not the best service for tech startups hiring remote workers in several different countries. For small businesses going after government contracts, setting up new factories, providing labor for manufacturers, or who need to consistently recruit skilled and certified professional tradespeople, though, this service has their needs covered.

A focus on supporting the compliance needs of manufacturing and the trades means that XcelHR gets our pick for best PEO for health & safety.

BEST FOR MANUFACTURING AND TRADES

TriNet

TriNet is a full-service HR provider and PEO managing payroll, providing access to premium benefits, risk mitigation and other HR services. Operating for more than 30 years (founded in 1988) Trinet is a Certified PEO, as well as holding ESAC accreditation. TriNet is one of the few PEOs that is a publicly-listed company, and therefore subject to all the regulatory requirements set by the SEC: Its IPO was in 2014.

Key features

  • Full PEO and payroll services, including health, dental, life, and disability benefits administration
  • A range of additional services including 401k guidance, liability insurance, and strategic human resources guidance
  • Industry specialists — TriNet tailors its service to meet the unique needs of specific industries. At the time of writing, TriNet’s areas of focus included consulting, technology, retail, wholesale, manufacturing, life sciences, architecture, advertising, marketing, financial services, and nonprofits. To support business owners in these industries, TriNet provides a team with experience in the field, already familiar with their clients’ workforce and HR-related needs.
  • A dedicated HR platform, providing real-time HR data insights, and providing advanced analytics, as well as a user-friendly self-service portal for employees.

Pricing

TriNet does not publicly disclose its pricing. Unverified reports elsewhere on the internet report a monthly fee of $80 to $600 per employee, depending on the services chosen.

Pros

Benefits for small businesses in choosing TriNet as their PEO include:

  • Industry-specific expertise, ensuring that compliance intricacies of specific industries are followed
  • An all-in-one HR platform with self-service and mobile tools, and customer support available at any time
  • Advanced workforce analytics, including compensation benchmark reporting
  • Full risk mitigation services, including workers compensation, ACA, and employment practices risk management. 

Cons

Some potential downsides or disadvantages of going with TriNet include:

  • Lacks some flexibility with benefits, with key providers being national offers like Aetna, UnitedHealth, MetLife, Kaiser and Blue Shield. It is reported that local or regional providers in the US are quite limited
  • No pricing information publicly available. While Trinet claims pricing transparency this only relates to how the prices are set, not the actual prices or even a range. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

No other PEO has devoted specialists to serve clients across a broad range of industries. This ensures that any small business engaging TriNet has a partner who deeply understands their business. 

Our Verdict

With its industry-specific expert consultants, TriNet stands out as a large PEO that can also provide a high degree of custom, personalized support. This helpful atmosphere undoubtedly will help many small business owners save time and money and provide a supportive environment that will allow them to focus less on HR and compliance issues and more on moving their businesses forward.

While it does not declare its pricing, for very small startups and employers on a tight budget, a more no-frills service may better suit their needs.

For more information on how this PEO can best support your small business check out our 2023 TriNet PEO analysis. 

BEST FOR STARTUPS

Insperity

Insperity is one of the PEO giants — founded in 1986 and going public in 1997. It is a certified PEO and is explicitly focused on SMBs — companies that it classifies as having 5-5000 employees.

Key features

  • A trusted PEO and co-employer, with payroll, benefits sponsorship and administration, and tax compliance as its core business.
  • Additional HR services, including recruitment outsourcing and outplacement support, training and development, performance management services and employer liability management
  • A range of different packages to suit different kinds of client including Insperity Workforce Optimization, and Workforce Synchronization co-employment solutions, but also Workforce Acceleration and Workforce Administration for companies that do not need a full PEO solution.

Pricing

Insperity does not provide its prices on its website.

Pros

Benefits of choosing Insperity include:

  • The small business plan from Insperity provides an impressive client support team; a Safety Consultant, Performance Specialist, HR Services Manager, Payroll Specialist, and Client Liaison is assigned to each client
  • Online training. A number of online training courses for owners and staff, which can be found through the online portal. For those who need more or less assistance, Insperity offers customizable plans
  • Customizable plans mean that businesses can level their HR services up and down as they scale the business. If a startup has grown sufficiently that it no longer needs a PEO, it can use other outsourced HR solutions to supplement its internal HR team. 

Cons

Potential disadvantages of choosing Insperity include: 

  • 5 Employee minimum, making Insperity inappropriate for micro-businesses. 
  • No pricing provided on Insperity website

Unique Selling Point (USP)

The Insperity USP is its wrap-around customer support, ensuring that clients have tailored support for any problems that arise. 

Our Verdict

The large support teams and flexible plans offered by Insperity will help shoulder HR administration for small businesses while providing tools that help build up their internal capabilities. Support teams are not industry specific though, and there is a 5-employee minimum.

The unparalleled customer support, alongside flexible packages which allow small businesses to scale their PEO and HR needs easily, makes Insperity our choice for best PEO for startups. 

BEST FOR INSURANCE

Paychex

As a PEO and outsourced HR provider, Paychex is currently co-employer for one in 12 private employees in the United States. Paychex adds value to its offerings by providing full HR outsourcing services alongside its PEO solution.

Reportedly the largest HR provider for SMBs, Paychex has 730,000 clients across the US and Northern Europe.

Key features

  • Customer service. All clients are assigned a Payroll Account Manager and a Human Resource Generalist, who work directly with co-employees to provide a custom and personalized service
  • Extra HR support. Other experts and services are available a la carte, going beyond HR to include risk assessment and management, office management, and digital marketing. Basic PEO services can be broken down into smaller components as well; HR administration and benefits administration are available as standalone products if desired.

Pricing

The basic Paychex plan, Paychex Flex Essentials costs $39 per month + $5 per Employee. Other plans are custom priced based on the needs of the client company.

Pros

Benefits of making Paychex your PEO or HR partner include: 

  • Public reputation — Paychex is a long-established brand name in HR And payroll internationally. When you choose Paychex you are choosing a trusted provider which has been operating since 1971
  • Not just a PEO — for companies with more modest HR requirements other forms of HR outsourcing are available, including a la carte recruitment and onboarding services. 
  • Insurance coverage — Paychex does not just provide health and dental like some other PEOs, it administers commercial auto, cyber liability, errors and omissions, general liability, commercial property and umbrella coverage. 

Cons

Reported downsides of going with Paychex include:

  • 5 Employee minimum — not suitable for micro-businesses
  • User experience issues — some users report a clunky user interface for the online portal, and a platform that is complicated to use for beginners

Unique Selling Point (USP)

No other PEO or HR provider offers the comprehensive insurance coverage that Paychex does. 

Our Verdict

Paychex’s flexible options are great for small businesses with needs that change as they grow. In the very early stages, a company may need full HR, PEO, and digital marketing services. However, as companies grow they may take on more HR tasks in-house and use Paychex primarily for PEO services and consultations such as risk assessment. Business owners who like to handle PEO and HR tools remotely through the online portal may find the Paychex software less than desirable, though, and the 5-employee minimum may turn away small startups looking for a quick solution.

The full range of insurance coverage provided means that Paychex gets the tick from us as Best PEO for Insurance. To read more about why Paychex is an excellent PEO for small businesses check out our detailed 2023 Paychex review. 

BEST CUSTOMER CARE

CoAdvantage

CoAdvantage prides itself on having a personal touch, with a service designed to meet the specific needs of small businesses. The company provides PEO services in all 50 states and provides a high level of customized service through 26 regional offices throughout the US.

Key features

  • Payroll, benefits administration and tax compliance, as the co-employer of small business employees
  • Online portal — through the CoAdQuantum online portal, clients can not only view benefits packages and employee work hours, but also have access to over 70 analytic reports presented in easy-to-read charts, applicant tracking, access to pre-hire screening services for background checks and can run online learning modules for employees.
  • Risk management and safety services, including claims administration, injury reports and Title VII.

Pricing

CoAdvantage does not provide pricing information publicly on its website.

CoAdvantage — your customer support advantage

Pros

CoAdvantage means companies can benefit from:

  • Data-driven team-building services — access to over 70 reports is provided through the Business Intelligence Payroll and Invoice Allocation Dashboards. All information is provided in easily digestible metrics and charts. 
  • Additional HR and recruitment services, such as background checks, applicant tracking and online learning. 

Cons

Possible downsides of CoAdvantage include: 

  • No pricing transparency, making it difficult to compare CoAdvantage with other providers
  • Some limitations on service provision compared to more established PEOs. For example, CoAdvantage does not have the wide insurance offering that some other providers have. They also do not provide industry-specific support. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

CoAdvantage user reviews consistently refer to their first-class customer support. For small businesses that have limited time to spend on payroll and HR tasks, this is invaluable. 

Our Verdict

CoAdvantage is a great all-around PEO services provider for small businesses. Their services are highly competitive, the data analysis services offered through the online portal are some of the best in the business, and by having local offices around the country they bring a personal touch to business owners in most locations. Small businesses looking for extensive business management add-ons, international or remote workforce capabilities, or industry-specific services may prefer another provider, but for many others who are simply looking for a competitive PEO with a powerful online system and quality localized service, this will be the favored choice.

The CoAdvantage commitment to customer service makes them our choice for ‘Best PEO for customer care’. 

BEST FOR BUDGET-CONSCIOUS COMPANIES 

Amplify

Amplify is a smaller PEO service that takes pride in offering a high degree of personal customer support. Amplify also offers a few features that are not always covered by its competitors.

Key features

  • Core PEO services, including payroll processing, medical, dental and vision benefits administration, flexible spending acccunts,
  • Additional HR support, including new hire support and discipline and termination advisory.

Pricing

Amplify has no public pricing page. 

 

Pros

  • An unusual feature for a PEO, General General Ledger (GL) mapping helps owners stay abreast of their organization’s financial health
  • Employee Assistance Plans (EAPs) to provide confidential counseling to employees and their families
  • Additional insurance —  Amplify offers Employer Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) which protects employers from liabilities as a result of actions such as wrongful termination. 
  • Competitive pricing, especially when taking into account the extra features Amplify provide. While Amplify do not publicly disclose their prices, online reviews almost universally report that Amplify is one of the cheapest PEO solutions on the market.

Cons

Potential downsides of choosing Amplify include: 

  • Limited coverage — the service is currently only available in 15 US states
  • No pricing transparency, prices are only available by custom quote. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

Amplify is a boutique PEO with more-than-the-standard HR offerings in the states in which it operates.  

Our Verdict

The combination of EAPs and ELPI provides great all-around coverage for business owners by looking after the mental health of employees and simultaneously protecting the company from liabilities. With GL mapping helping to maintain the financial health of the company, Amplify provides a unique set of tools to maintain the health of small businesses. Owners looking for a full HR outsourcing solution, or who employ outside of the 15 states covered by Amplify, however, will need to look elsewhere.

BEST FOR INTERNATIONAL PEO

Papaya Global

Papaya Global, as the name suggests, is focused on international PEO services. It is a PEO unicorn (last valued at 3.7 billion US dollars) and facilitates hiring, payroll and employment compliance almost anywhere in the world.

Key features

  • Global coverage — it can compliantly process payroll and taxes in 180 countries, provides benefits packages specifically for an international workforce, helps to set up equity packages for international employees, and can assist with visas and immigration as well
  • The Papaya online portal helps business owners keep track of their global workforce by providing a birds-eye view of the statistics for the entire organization and enabling a close-up view of individual employees’  work hours, onboarding status, sick leave, and vacation time.

Pricing

Papaya Global provides its pricing on its website, which it sets out as follows:

  • Payroll — $20 per employee per month
  • Contractor — $25 per contractor per month
  • Employer of Record (PEO) — \$770 per employee per month
  • Payroll intelligence suite — from $250 per month.

Papaya Global also points out on its website that it provides volume discounts.

Pros

Benefits of choosing Papaya Global for small businesses include: 

  • One partner to oversee all employees where employees operate in multiple countries
  • A cutting-edge software platform supporting both employers and employees
  • A payroll outsourcing solution for small businesses that do not need the full PEO/EOR service
  • A proprietary payments platform, meaning Papaya Global can usually process payroll more quickly than other PEOs. 

Cons

  • Pricing is less competitive for US-based, businesses with industry-specific PEO needs. 
  • Papaya Global operates through partner PEOs/EORs in each country it operates in, meaning that clients have to maintain relationships with multiple parties. 

Unique Selling Point (USP)

With both payroll and international PEO solutions, Papaya is ideal for small businesses which need payroll only for their local employees, and PEO for their foreign employees. 

Our Verdict

Papaya is a great one-stop shop for small businesses looking to set up a global team. By using these services to take advantage of global talent acquisition, small businesses can get set up faster and save money. A globally distributed workforce is not for everyone though, and companies who are only looking for PEO providers with local or national support may do better elsewhere.

For more on Papaya Global, check out our comprehensive review of Papaya’s Employer of Record (EOR) services. 

Choosing the Right PEO for your Small Business — Our Advice

Choosing the best PEO service for small businesses is an individual choice for small business owners and directors: The best option will depend on the budget for HR and payroll, industry norms for employee benefits, and the experience and capacity of business directors. 

For more information on optimizing HR, check out our comprehensive small business hiring guide. 

FAQ

No. While small businesses often have budget and time constraints that make PEO services of obvious benefit, larger companies can also benefit from the sophisticated payroll and HR services that a PEO can provide. 

Different PEOs have different charging models. Some charge a percentage of total payroll, others charge a fixed rate per employee, per month.

Of those who charge monthly, prices range from $50 per employee per month to $500 per employee month, depending on the services chosen. For example, those PEOs offering premium insurance packages will obviously charge a lot more than 'no frills' operators. 

Article By
Managing Editor
Milly is an international lawyer and tech entrepreneur who has advised companies on expanding globally for over 5 years. She is an advocate of remote hiring and regularly consults on future of work matters. Milly founded RemotePad to help employers learn more about building and growing international teams.

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