Best UK payroll software guide – Top 16 packages reviewed

Selecting the right payroll software for your business can be a daunting task. A range of factors such as features, scalability, and pricing need to be considered. In this article, we review the top 16 best payroll software packages available in the UK, focusing on their features, pros, cons, and pricing.

Video: Answering your common questions about payroll prices and costs

Best payroll software UK

12 CloudStarting from £50/monthHighly scalable, Multi-country support, Robust security features, Integrated analytics toolsComplex interface, Expensive for small businesses, Limited customer support, Requires training
ADPQuote-basedUser-friendly, Extensive add-ons, Robust customer service, Good mobile accessibilityPricey for advanced features, Not for very small businesses, Limited customisation, Time-consuming setup
BrightPayStarts at £199/yearAuto-enrolment for pensions, Good customer support, Simple interface, Low annual costLimited reporting, Desktop-based, Limited third-party integration, Infrequent updates
CintraQuote-basedFully HMRC-compliant, Bespoke solutions, High data security, Public sector specialisationLimited for SMEs, High set-up cost, Complex interface, Slower customer service
FreeAgentStarts at £14/monthSimple interface, Affordable, Direct filing with HMRC, Supports multiple usersLimited advanced features, No multi-currency, Lacks in-depth analytics, Limited phone support
IRISStarting from £10/monthExtensive reporting, HR tools integration, Regular updates, Supports various business sizesExpensive for small businesses, Limited mobile support, Requires training, Customer service could improve
MHRQuote-basedComprehensive HR suite, Advanced analytics, Highly customisable, Scalable for growthComplex interface, High upfront costs, Limited online support, Requires training
MoneySoftStarts at £120/yearAffordable, Simple functionality, Quick setup, No-frills interfaceLimited add-on features, No mobile app, Limited customisation, Basic reporting
OnfolkStarts at £20/monthEasy to use, Cloud-based, Quick setup, Automated updatesLimited customisation, No advanced analytics, Limited third-party integration, Basic customer support
OrbitalQuote-basedComplex pay structures, Scalable, High data security, Advanced analyticsHigh costs, Not for SMEs, Limited customer service, Requires extensive training
PayfitStarts at £39/monthUser-friendly, Customisable, Mobile app, Quick implementationLimited third-party integration, Expensive for small businesses, Limited reporting, No multi-country support
QuickBooksStarts at £8/monthIntegration with accounting, User-friendly, Multiple payment options, Good mobile appLimited advanced features, Costs can add up, Limited customisation, Lacks robust analytics
SageStarting from £12.50/monthReliable brand, Comprehensive features, Good customer support, Highly scalableCan be expensive, Dated interface, Limited mobile capabilities, Complexity requires training
ShapeStarts at £35/monthAI-driven analytics, Modern interface, Customisable dashboard, High data securityLimited customer reviews, Expensive for small businesses, Limited third-party integration, Advanced features require training
XeroStarts at £11/monthStrong mobile features, Good accounting integration, User-friendly, Regular updatesLimited customisation, Costs can add up, Lacks advanced analytics, Limited phone support

12 Cloud

12 Cloud is tailored for large enterprises, offering advanced features and high scalability. It comes with robust security measures and integrated analytics tools, making it a comprehensive solution for multinational organisations.

Best suited for: Large enterprises looking for a scalable solution with multi-country support.

Pricing: Starting from £50 per month

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  • Highly scalable
  • Multi-country support
  • Robust security features
  • Integrated analytics tools


  • Complex interface
  • Expensive for small businesses
  • Limited customer support
  • Requires training to maximise utility


ADP stands out for its user-friendly interface and extensive add-ons. Ideal for businesses seeking more than just payroll services, it also offers time and attendance tracking amongst other features.

Best suited for: Medium to large businesses looking for extensive HR and payroll functionalities with a focus on mobile accessibility.

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Pricing: Quote-based


  • User-friendly interface
  • Extensive add-ons like time and attendance tracking
  • Robust customer service
  • Good mobile accessibility


  • Pricy for advanced features
  • Not ideal for very small businesses
  • Limited customisation options
  • Setup can be time-consuming


UK-based BrightPay is designed for small and medium-sized enterprises. It offers auto-enrolment for pensions and a straightforward, user-friendly interface at a reasonable annual cost.

Best suited for: Small and medium-sized businesses, especially those in need of simple pension auto-enrolment features.

Pricing: Starts at £199 per year


  • Auto-enrolment for pensions
  • Good customer support
  • Simple, user-friendly interface
  • Low annual cost


  • Limited reporting capabilities
  • Desktop-based; lacks a mobile application
  • Limited third-party integrations
  • Updates can be infrequent


Cintra focuses on bespoke payroll solutions for large enterprises and public sector organisations. With a range of advanced features, it’s tailored for complex payroll requirements, especially for organisations that need to be HMRC compliant.

Best suited for: Large enterprises and public sector organisations with complex payroll needs.

Pricing: Quote-based


  • Fully HMRC-compliant
  • Bespoke solutions
  • High data security
  • Specialised for public sectors


  • Limited suitability for SMEs
  • High initial set-up cost
  • Complex user interface
  • Slower customer service response times


FreeAgent is an affordable and simple solution for freelancers and very small businesses. It allows direct filing with HMRC and supports multiple users, making it a straightforward option for basic payroll needs.

Best suited for: Freelancers and micro-businesses who want an affordable, simple solution with direct HMRC filing.

Pricing: Starts at £14 per month


  • Simple, intuitive interface
  • Affordable pricing
  • Direct filing with HMRC
  • Supports multiple users


  • Limited advanced features
  • No multi-currency support
  • Lacks an in-depth analytics dashboard
  • Limited phone support


IRIS caters to a wide range of business sizes but is particularly useful for medium to large organisations. It offers extensive reporting capabilities and the potential for integration with other HR tools.

Best suited for: Medium to large businesses that require extensive reporting and HR integration.

Pricing: Starting from £10 per month


  • Extensive reporting capabilities
  • Integration with other HR tools
  • Regular software updates
  • Supports a wide range of business sizes


  • Expensive for small businesses
  • Limited mobile support
  • Requires training to utilise fully
  • Customer service could be improved


MHR provides a robust suite of HR services alongside its payroll offerings. Its advanced analytics dashboard and high customisability make it a complete package for businesses planning for growth.

Best suited for: Businesses looking for a comprehensive HR and payroll package with room for scalability.

Pricing: Quote-based


  • Comprehensive HR suite
  • Advanced analytics dashboard
  • Highly customisable
  • Scalable for growth


  • Complex interface
  • High upfront costs
  • Limited online support resources
  • May require in-house training


MoneySoft offers a simple, no-frills approach to payroll, ideal for SMEs who just want to get the job done. The software is focused on basic, essential functions without complicating the user interface.

Best suited for: Small and medium-sized businesses seeking an affordable, straightforward payroll solution.

Pricing: Starts at £120 per year


  • Affordable annual pricing
  • Simple, focused functionality
  • Quick setup
  • No-frills interface


  • Limited add-on features
  • No mobile application
  • Limited customisation options
  • Basic reporting features


Onfolk is a cloud-based solution perfect for businesses that prefer an automated approach to payroll. With a quick setup process and automated updates, it offers an easy-to-use experience.

Best suited for: Businesses seeking a straightforward, cloud-based payroll solution with automation features.

Pricing: Starts at £20 per month


  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Cloud-based
  • Quick setup
  • Automated updates


  • Limited customisation options
  • No advanced analytics
  • Limited third-party integrations
  • Basic customer support


Orbital offers a solution for enterprises that have complex payroll structures. Its scalable design and high data security measures make it ideal for large organisations.

Best suited for: Large enterprises with complex payroll structures and a need for high data security.

Pricing: Quote-based


  • Handles complex pay structures
  • Scalable for large businesses
  • High data security
  • Advanced analytics tools


  • High upfront and monthly costs
  • Not suitable for SMEs
  • Limited customer service support
  • Requires extensive training


Payfit offers a user-friendly and highly customisable interface. The software is quick to implement and comes with a mobile app for convenient on-the-go payroll management.

Best suited for: Businesses that want a highly customisable, user-friendly software with mobile app support.

Pricing: Starts at £39 per month


  • User-friendly interface
  • Highly customisable
  • Mobile app for on-the-go management
  • Quick implementation process


  • Limited third-party integrations
  • Expensive for small businesses
  • Limited advanced reporting
  • No multi-country support


QuickBooks offers seamless integration with its accounting software, making it a two-in-one solution for small businesses. Its user-friendly design and multiple payment options provide an easy payroll process.

Best suited for: Small businesses already using QuickBooks for accounting and seeking an integrated payroll solution.

Pricing: Starts at £8 per month


  • Seamless integration with accounting
  • User-friendly interface
  • Multiple payment options
  • Good mobile application


  • Limited advanced payroll features
  • Monthly costs can add up with add-ons
  • Limited customisation options
  • Lacks robust analytics features


Sage is a tried-and-true solution offering a comprehensive set of features. Known for its reliability, it is suitable for businesses of all sizes and offers good customer support.

Best suited for: Businesses of all sizes looking for a reliable, comprehensive payroll and accounting solution.

Pricing: Starting from £12.50 per month


  • Reliable and reputable brand
  • Comprehensive feature set
  • Good customer support
  • Highly scalable


  • Can be expensive with add-ons
  • Dated user interface
  • Limited mobile capabilities
  • Complexity requires training


Shape is a newcomer to the market, offering AI-driven analytics and a modern, user-friendly interface. Its customisable dashboard and high data security make it an interesting option for businesses willing to try new tech solutions.

Best suited for: Businesses looking for a modern, analytics-driven payroll solution and willing to adapt to new technology.

Pricing: Starts at £35 per month


  • AI-driven analytics
  • Modern, user-friendly interface
  • Customisable dashboard
  • High data security


  • Limited customer reviews
  • Expensive for small businesses
  • Limited third-party integrations
  • Advanced features may require training


Xero stands out for its strong mobile functionalities, making it ideal for businesses that require on-the-go payroll management. It offers good integration with accounting software and a user-friendly interface.

Best suited for: Businesses needing a strong mobile payroll solution that integrates well with accounting software.

Pricing: Starts at £11 per month


  • Strong mobile features
  • Good integration with accounting software
  • User-friendly interface
  • Regular updates


  • Limited customisation options
  • Monthly costs can add up
  • Lacks advanced analytics
  • Limited phone support


The right payroll software for your business will depend on various factors including the size of your company, the complexity of your payroll needs, and your budget.

This comprehensive comparison aims to serve as a resourceful guide to streamline your decision-making process, offering insights into the pros, cons, and pricing of the top 16 payroll software packages in the UK.

FAQ for best UK payroll software

Below is an FAQ section to address some common questions you may have about selecting a payroll software for your UK business.

What is payroll software?

Payroll software automates the process of paying salaries to employees, taking into account deductions, benefits, and tax calculations.

Is it mandatory to use payroll software in the UK?

It’s not mandatory, but using payroll software can help ensure that you’re in compliance with UK tax laws and regulations, which can be complex.

Can I switch payroll software mid-year?

Yes, you can switch payroll software at any point. However, you will need to carefully migrate all the existing payroll data to the new system.

What are the key features to look for in payroll software?

Key features to consider include tax compliance, reporting capabilities, ease of use, scalability, and customer support.

Are there free payroll software options?

Some providers offer free versions of their software, but these are typically limited in terms of features and scalability.

How secure is my data with payroll software?

Security protocols vary between providers, but most reputable companies offer robust data encryption and security features.

Is cloud-based payroll software better than on-premises solutions?

Each has its own pros and cons. Cloud-based software provides accessibility and real-time updates, while on-premises solutions may offer more customisation and control.

Can payroll software handle multiple currencies?

Some advanced payroll software options offer multi-currency support, but not all do. Check this feature if your business operates in more than one country.

Do I need specific training to use payroll software?

Many modern payroll software packages are user-friendly and require minimal training. However, some advanced systems may require a learning curve.

Can I integrate payroll software with accounting systems?

Most leading payroll software can integrate with popular accounting systems like QuickBooks, Sage, and Xero.

How much does payroll software cost?

The cost varies widely based on features, scalability, and the number of employees. Prices can range from as low as £8/month to custom quote-based pricing for larger enterprises.

Do I need to update payroll software manually?

Cloud-based solutions generally update automatically. For on-premises software, updates may need to be manually installed.

Can payroll software help with tax compliance?

Yes, most payroll software helps with tax calculations and can automatically file reports with HMRC.

Is customer support important when choosing payroll software?

Absolutely. Reliable customer support can help resolve issues quickly, which is essential for smooth payroll processing.

Can I customise the features of my payroll software?

Some software allows for high levels of customisation, while others offer a fixed set of features.

What are the potential downsides of using payroll software?

Potential downsides include software glitches, a steep learning curve for complex systems, and the possibility of high costs for advanced features.

Can payroll software handle pension contributions?

Most modern payroll software options in the UK can handle auto-enrolment for pension contributions.

Can I use payroll software for hourly and salaried employees?

Yes, most payroll software can accommodate both hourly and salaried employees.

Can payroll software handle bonuses and commissions?

Most software can handle various types of compensation, including bonuses and commissions, as long as these are set up correctly in the system.

Can I generate payslips through payroll software?

Yes, generating payslips is a standard feature in most payroll software packages.

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