You want software that can help you accurately process your payrolls and taxes, and you want software that will provide your teams with attractive benefits and increase employee retention. It may seem like you’re asking for a lot, but you’re in luck: The right HR and payroll software solution can provide the tools to support your business across several areas of operations.
While Gusto and TriNet Zenefits are both leading competitors in the payroll software world, the products have unique approaches to providing different features and capabilities. Most importantly, Gusto is a payroll-first software solution while Zenefits’ primary focus is on human resources, including payroll only as an optional add-on.
We compare key features of Gusto and Zenefits so you can choose the HR payroll solution that is ideal for your business.
SEE: Choosing a payroll service: A guide for business leaders (TechRepublic Premium)
Gusto vs. Zenefits: Feature comparison table
|In-house benefits brokerage
|Employee benefits administration
|Yes (additional fee)
|Unlimited monthly payroll runs
|Mobile app for employers
|Time and attendance tracking
|Starting monthly price
|$40 + $6 per employee
|$8 per employee (HR only) or $14 per employee (HR + payroll)
Gusto and Zenefits pricing
Gusto is one of the top Zenefits competitors. It offers a cloud-based, full-service payroll software solution with HR tools that help businesses hire and provide compensation and benefits for their staff. The company provides its payroll software through three product tiers containing automatic payroll features, benefits integrations and other organizational capabilities. You can customize Gusto’s payroll plans with add-on options to access more payroll and HR tools.
Gusto Payroll has three payroll plans:
- Gusto Simple costs $40 a month plus $6 per employee per month.
- Gusto Plus costs $80 per month plus $12 per employee per month.
- Gusto Premium has custom pricing only.
TriNet Zenefits provides a People Ops Platform in the form of cloud-based software with features for managing payroll processes, health insurance coverage and other HR operations. Zenefits’ software-as-a-service solution is offered in three plans, each billed monthly:
- Zenefits Essentials costs $8 per employee per month.
- Zenefits Growth costs $16 per employee per month.
- Zenefits Zen costs $21 per employee per month.
It’s important to note that Zenefits’ base plans do not include built-in payroll. If you want to add more services on top of Zenefits’ HR software features, payroll included, you’ll pay an extra monthly fee per employee:
- Payroll costs $6 per employee.
- Unlimited payroll and HR customer support costs $8 per employee.
- Benefits integration costs $5 per employee.
- Recruiting features, including hiring and onboarding, start at $35 per month (not per employee).
Pricing comparison chart
Initially, TriNet Zenefits seems like a more affordable payroll and HR software service than Gusto. However, Zenefits requires you to sign up with a minimum of five employees. If you have five employees and want both payroll and basic HR, Zenefits will cost a minimum of $70 per month — the same starting price as Gusto. The more employees you have, the more expensive Zenefits becomes compared to Gusto.
|Zenefits Essentials + Payroll
Feature comparison: Zenefits vs. Gusto
As one of the best full-service payroll providers, Gusto has notably comprehensive payroll tools that let businesses run unlimited payrolls easily. The solution has time-tracking built in, meaning that employees’ hours are automatically synced to their payroll data. The automated nature of the integrated solution also means that other factors affecting payroll, like health insurance, 401(k), workers’ compensation and PTO, are appropriately managed.
Gusto can manage payroll, regardless of where your staff members reside. In addition, the payroll solution can process contractor payments in more than 80 countries and handle the tax registration process for employees in all 50 U.S. states. For hourly workers, geolocation time tracking ensures that business records stay accurate and compliant.
Gusto also automatically files payroll taxes with the appropriate government agencies. Employees can view pay stubs and W-2s in the system, as well as access their pay fast through Gusto debit cards.
You can process unlimited payruns through Zenefits’ easy-to-use platform. Its automated features simplify payroll processing, with automatically synced time off, benefit deductions, scheduling data and updates to salary information.
Zenefits admin and payrun features help you manage payroll tasks with automated reminders. Features like automatically prorated payments for new employees, pay previews and the ability to capture reported tips are beneficial for ensuring accurate payments and compliance.
Zenefits lets businesses process multiple deductions and automatically handles federal and state tax filings, including new hire filing and 1099 filings to the IRS. Garnishments are no trouble, as the platform calculates and sets aside garnishment withholding sums.
Unlike many of its main payroll competitors, Gusto acts as a broker and helps employers offer their workers health and financial benefits. These affordable Gusto benefits include low-cost workers comp, commuter benefits, and HSA and FSA options. In addition, the premium Gusto plan provides users access to 401ks and dental, vision and health insurance administration. Note that Gusto’s health insurance coverage is limited to 38 U.S. states.
The Zenefits automated system supports businesses in providing medical, dental and vision benefits in 49 U.S. states. Additional Zenefits benefits include FSA, 401k, life and disability, HSA, commuter and supplemental benefits. Regarding ACA regulations, the platform keeps up with the latest updates and handles compliance automatically.
Reporting, insights and analytics
Gusto lets you view and share a wide range of reports related to payroll, benefits, workers and taxes. For instance, worker time-off data can be organized by date, department or employee so you can generate the right reports for your needs.
Higher-cost plan tiers let leaders and decision makers access more reports and holistic insights on data related to taxes and workforce costs. Gusto even lets businesses generate custom reports using its templates, enabling them to gain the required data and insights.
Zenefits can keep track of multiple business aspects through the platform’s reporting features. For example, Zenefits can generate payroll timelines and ledger reports to help you understand your compensation spending. Plus, you can learn how payroll costs are distributed across each of your labor types.
In addition, Zenefits makes tax reporting a breeze, as the software provides extensive ways to visualize and manage your finances through Tax Liability Reports and more. The People Analytics features allow you to see data about payroll, HR and benefits; this data can be viewed as reports used to curate visualizations and can be shared with others.
Gusto vs. Zenefits: Video comparison
Gusto pros and cons
- Comprehensive payroll processing for small and midsize businesses plus enterprises.
- Full-service payroll tax filing and management.
- Employee benefit administration through in-house brokerage.
- Mobile app for employees, Gusto Wallet.
- International contractor payment.
- Health insurance coverage limited to 38 U.S. states.
- Extremely limited HR features, even with the priciest plan.
- No mobile payroll app for employers.
- Compliance alerts limited to most expensive plan only.
Zenefits pros and cons
- Comprehensive HR features, including time tracking and employee scheduling, new-hire onboarding and background checks.
- Extremely thorough reports, data and analytics.
- Mobile app for employees and employers.
- User-friendly interface with low learning curve.
- High pricing for additional features makes Zenefits extremely expensive for many small businesses.
- Five-employee minimum required for signup.
- Poor customer support reviews.
- Limited third-party accounting software integrations.
Should your organization use Gusto or Zenefits?
When choosing between Zenefits, Gusto or another of the best HR and payroll providers, you should consider the features that mean the most to your organization. Download this payroll services comparison tool from TechRepublic Premium to help you make your decision.
Additionally, consider what matters most to you: HR features or payroll services. If your small business needs a robust payroll provider with just a handful of HR features, Gusto Payroll is by far the better choice. However, if you want a more comprehensive HR service with an optional payroll tool, prioritize TriNet Zenefits.
Make sure to consult your budget as well. If you have five employees and want both HR and payroll features, Zenefits and Gusto Payroll have the same starting monthly price. (Thanks to Zenefits’ five-employee requirement, Gusto or another Zenefits alternative is the only choice for small businesses with between one and four employees.) The main difference is that Gusto’s payroll features outshine Zenefits’ payroll tool while Zenefits’ features make it much better for human resource management.
However, the more employees and features you add, Zenefits’ price skyrockets compared to Gusto’s. If you’d prefer a cheaper payroll provider with more HR features than Gusto, a Zenefits competitor like Paychex, QuickBooks Payroll or ADP could be a better fit.
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QuickBooks from Intuit is a small business accounting software that allows companies to manage business anywhere, anytime. It presents organizations with a clear view of their profits without manual work and provides smart and user-friendly tools for the business.
Paychex is a cloud-based payroll management system offering payroll, HR, and benefits management systems for small to large businesses. Paychex covers payroll and taxes, employee 401(k) retirement services, benefits, insurance, HR, accounting, finance and Professional Employer Organization (PEO).
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