Professional employer organizations, or PEOs, are HR companies that handle other business’s complex HR needs. If your business partners with a PEO company, the PEO will take everything employee-related off your hands, from hiring and onboarding to payroll, benefits and taxes.
PEOs are typically more expensive than in-house HR and payroll software solutions. Additionally, PEOs must become legal co-employers with your business so they can file payroll taxes on your behalf. As long as you have the budget for it and are fine sharing ownership of your company with a third party, working with a PEO can give you time to focus on running your business instead of dealing with HR.
The best PEO solution for most small and midsize businesses is ADP TotalSource. But if ADP TotalSource isn’t a good fit for you, there are plenty of other PEO companies that can take HR and payroll off your hands entirely.
- Top PEO companies: Feature comparison table
- Top PEO companies of 2023
- Our methodology
- How to choose the right PEO company
- Frequently asked questions
Top PEO companies: Feature comparison table
|Full-service payroll||Benefit administration||Hiring and onboarding tools||Global payroll and benefits||Starting monthly price|
|ADP TotalSource||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (140+ countries)||Unlisted online|
|Rippling PEO||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||$35 + $8/employee|
|Paychex PEO||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (through third-party integration)||Unlisted online|
|Papaya Global||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes (160+ countries)||Unlisted online|
Top PEO companies of 2023
Competing PEO companies offer outsourced HR solutions that include rapid onboarding, automated tax and payroll, and remote equipment management. Each PEO solution reviewed below aims to be a one-stop shop for the entire employee lifecycle, but each competitor offers different human resource services at different price points.
These are the top PEO companies for 2023.
ADP TotalSource: Best overall PEO
ADP is a payroll and HR company that offers multiple employee management solutions for all types and sizes of businesses. While ADP offers well-reviewed payroll software scalable for small, midsize and large businesses, the company is probably best known for its PEO service, ADP TotalSource.
ADP TotalSource focuses on small and midsize businesses with between five and 250 employees. Once you choose ADP as your co-employer, the company will manage your workers’ compensation payments, payroll processing, payroll tax filing and employee benefits. While ADP doesn’t perform every single HR task, it does provide thorough HR support as an HRBP, or HR business partner.
To learn more about whether ADP TotalSource will work for you, check out our ADP review.
- Full-service payroll administration, including automatic unlimited payroll runs and full-service payroll tax withholding and remittance.
- Global payroll in 140+ countries.
- Health insurance plans available in all 50 U.S. states.
- Retirement plans, including 401(k)s and SIMPLE IRAs.
- Digital time clock via ADP’s app, which includes automatic manager alerts and approval settings for time-off and scheduling requests.
- Easy access to ADP’s compliance experts for legal guidance on wage and hourly employment laws.
- Pre-employment screenings conducted by ADP, including background checks and credential verification.
- Customizable online onboarding courses.
- Incredibly comprehensive HR compliance resource libraries.
- Decades of experience as an IRS-certified PEO.
- More thorough PEO services than almost every competitor.
- Expansive resource library and expert insights into compliance, employee retention and key business metrics.
- Highly rated payroll apps for employers and employees.
- Too expensive for some members of ADP’s target audience (small businesses).
- Limited plan customization.
- No clear pricing on ADP’s website.
Like most PEOs, ADP requires you to call its sales team directly to get a quote.
Rippling PEO: Best for technology management
Rippling PEO differentiates itself from the market by offering a combination of HR, IT and finance solutions in one dashboard. The cloud-based solution also leverages automation in most of its processes.
Rippling’s PEO solution guides users through complex tax, onboarding and payroll executions with guided step-by-step instructions, providing high levels of accessibility to teams. It also offers reports, training and skilling, competitive pricing and global payroll capacities.
To learn more about whether Rippling PEO will work for you, check out our Rippling review.
- Highly automated global payroll management.
- Access to 4,000 benefits plans plans from the nation’s leading carriers, including Aetna, Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
- COBRA administration.
- Automatic time tracking and paycheck syncing.
- Tools to develop work culture, work policies, growth opportunities, integrations and more.
- Finance and IT tools to manage employees’ technology, computers, equipment and expenses.
- Highly automated.
- Combines HR, IT and Finance unlike no other PEO.
- Scalable and fully customizable.
- May be complex to manage for beginners.
- Initial setups can be time-consuming.
Rippling PEO’s base price isn’t listed online. However, the starting price for its standalone payroll solution is $8 per month for every user.
Additionally, every customer can add HR and IT components like Payroll, Benefits, Device Management and others. These can be purchased separately. Whether you choose Rippling PEO or one of its standalone HR, tech or payroll modules, you’ll also pay an unlisted monthly base fee.
Rippling is offering a one-month free subscription to TechRepublic readers. Visit Rippling’s site to sign up.
Paychex PEO: Best for midsize businesses
Paychex PEO is a solid PEO solution that helps companies of any size, from small businesses to midsized or enterprise level. However, its level of customer support and thorough features make it a particularly good fit for growing and midsize businesses. The company also offers a product called Paychex Flex, a cloud-based payroll software tool that helps companies hire, pay, manage and retain employees. Paychex is one of ADP’s biggest competitors in both the payroll software and PEO spheres, and the two companies share many of the same features, pros and cons.
To learn more about whether Paychex PEO will work for you, check out our Paychex review.
- Employee retention tax credit for savings opportunities.
- Multiple payment options for payroll processing, including pay-on-demand pay (prior to payroll date) and 24/7 real-time payments.
- Comprehensive employee benefits package, including 401(k) plans, HSAs and the financial wellness tool FinFit for a financial wellness program.
- Cloud-based time and attendance solution supports businesses of all sizes and many working environments.
- Professional guidance from HR experts.
- 24/7 multichannel support.
- Direct support for employees with questions about software, benefits or pay.
- Good for any sized company and those looking to scale.
- Excellent customer support.
- Comprehensive HR and payroll technologies.
- No online pricing disclosure for most Paychex components or plans.
- Might be too comprehensive and expensive for small businesses.
Paychex doesn’t list the pricing for its PEO service online. Instead, potential customers must directly request a free customized quote. Paychex Flex starts at $39 a month plus $5 per employee paid per month.
Justworks: Best for small businesses
Operating since 2012, Justworks is a straightforward, streamlined PEO solution for managing payroll, employee benefits, HR and compliance. Its robust cloud-based system receives healthy scores across various review sites.
While the platform is excellent for small and medium businesses for organization-wide payroll, medical, dental, vision, 401(k), life insurance, AD&D and more, it can be costly. The company does offer 24/7 support, but some features are not available in the Basic plan.
To learn more about whether Justworks’s PEO will work for you, check out our Justworks review.
- Automated paycheck deposits.
- Synced time and attendance through integration with Justworks Hours.
- Employee benefits options, including health insurance benefits, wellness services, deductible HSA, on-demand primary care services, life insurance, 401(K), HSAs, commuter benefits and more.
- 24/7 customer support.
- Automatic tax filing, comprehensive payroll and HR system.
- 24/7 support.
- Transparent online pricing.
- Basic plan is limited and advanced features may require additional payment.
- No global payroll.
Justworks’ price for the Basic plan is $59 per month per employee for the first 49 employees and then $49 per month per employee. The Plus plan, which includes everything the basic plan provides plus access to medical, dental and vision, is $99 per month per employee with a discount set at $89 per month for the 50th employee onwards.
Papaya Global: Best for international companies
Papaya Global is the ideal PEO for companies with international workforces. While Papaya offers all the payroll, HR and hiring and onboarding features that most platforms provide, it sets itself apart with a strong focus on managing global talents.
Papaya adapts to the age of hybrid work, where talent can come from anywhere. It operates in over 160 countries with all types of employment. The user-friendly platform comes in an all-in-one system with great data visibility, automation tools and reporting. Its customer support, however, is not 24/7, and it can be expensive for small companies.
To learn more about whether Papaya Global’s PEO service will work for you, check out our Papaya Global review.
- Global automated payroll management.
- Support all worker types (employees and contractors).
- Compliance engine that checks data accuracy and can run audits and reports over multiple countries.
- Payments in over 60 currencies delivered within 72 hours.
- International health plan to cover employees in more than 160 countries.
- User-friendly, highly automated and data-driven dashboards and visualizations.
- Complies with international payroll standards.
- Provides comprehensive payroll and HR global platforms.
- Transparent online pricing.
- Its focus is on global workforces. U.S. companies may not require most features.
- Can be expensive for small companies.
- Lacks 24/7 support.
Papaya Global offers different plans and customers can customize their own online. If you want to integrate your current payroll software with Papaya’s PEO platform, the starting price is just $3 per employee per month (on top of whatever you pay your payroll provider). Full-Service Payroll, which includes global payroll, costs $12 per employee per month.
Papaya Global’s more comprehensive services cost quite a bit more than its payroll-only solution. Its Employer of Record service starts at $650 per month per employee, while the Contractor Management costs $2 per month per contractor. Finally, the Global Expertise Services plan, which includes international healthcare and employee benefits administration, starts at $190 per month.
TriNet: Best for specific industries
Unlike the other best PEO companies on our list, TriNet’s PEO solutions are industry specific. While all of its PEO plans include standard PEO features, like automated payroll and comprehensive employee benefits, each individual plan is specifically tailored to your industry’s needs — especially your industry’s specific labor compliance regulations.
If TriNet is too expensive or too comprehensive for your business, TriNet-owned Zenefits could be a good non-PEO alternative. As an in-house based payroll software solution, Zenefits offers more generic payroll and HR features at a lower starting price.
To learn more about whether TriNet’s PEO service will work for you, check out our TriNet review.
- Full-service payroll, including automatic tax withholding and direct deposit in all 50 U.S. states.
- Integration with popular accounting solutions like QuickBooks Online and Xero.
- Payroll invoice estimates to help you budget for your next payroll run.
- Full medical, vision and dental insurance coverage from top providers like Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield.
- Unique employee benefit options like commuter benefits, brand-specific discounts (including AT&T, Verizon and Hyatt) and 401(k)s.
- Comprehensive time-and-attendance reports and easy-to-read data graphics.
- Useful talent retention and off-boarding tools.
- Cloud-based learning management suite with over 500 courses, including courses that count toward role- and industry-specific certification.
- Customer support: 24/7 support available year-round except on certain U.S. holidays.
- Industry-specific HR specialists help unique businesses stay compliant.
- Expansive traditional and non-traditional benefit options.
- Plans broken down by industry type and company size, starting at companies with five to 19 employees.
- Dedicated “relationship manager” serves as a single point of contact for customer support.
- Few hiring, talent acquisition or onboarding tools.
- Limited report customizability.
- Limited assistance with multi-state payroll.
TriNet doesn’t transparently list its prices online. However, when you request a quote, you’ll get a customized line-item list that clearly explains exactly which features you’ll be charged for and exactly how much each costs.
To choose the top PEO service providers for small businesses, we evaluated 12 of the most popular PEO companies for domestic and international companies. We then ranked them according to the following criteria:
- Pricing and scalability, including number of plans and transparent online fees.
- HR and payroll features.
- Customer service reputation, hours and modes of contact.
- Ease of use, including mobile payroll apps and user-friendly browser interfaces.
Learn more about how we rate and review our top payroll providers on our payroll review methodology page.
How to choose the right PEO company
There is no one-size fits all solution when choosing a PEO company. While some PEO technology may sound attractive for small companies, big enterprises with large workforces may require other features.
Several factors need to be considered before purchasing a PEO: Before contracting with a PEO company, consider factors like budget, number of employees, benefits that your organization offers, where you operate, what type of automation you require, what work culture you are building and how complex your compliance situation is. It’s also important to discuss HR, IT, payroll, accounting and finance tools with your respective teams to know which HR and payroll software platform they are more comfortable with and gain better insight into what your talent needs.
Frequently asked questions
What is a PEO?
A PEO, or professional employer organization, is a payroll and HR solution for small businesses that want to outsource those services instead of handling them in house. A PEO will become your business’s legal co-owner in order to legally hire employers on your behalf, process payroll, pay your employees and sign them up for benefits.
Why should you use a PEO?
Small businesses that don’t have time to spend on payroll, HR and legal compliance may benefit from turning those tasks over to a PEO company that specializes in human resources. With the help of a PEO service provider, business owners can focus on expanding operations and making sure their business is running smoothly. Meanwhile, HR professionals can handle every element of the employee life cycle to ensure employees have a positive experience working for your company.
What’s the difference between a PEO and a payroll service?
A payroll software service is a typically cloud-based payroll solution that enables employers to run payroll, pay employees and administer employee benefits in house. In contrast, a PEO is an outsourced solution where a PEO company takes HR and payroll tasks off a business’s plate so the business owners can focus on daily business tasks rather than focusing on the ins and outs of complicated payroll tax laws.