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The Best PEO Companies For Small Businesses In 2021

These professional employment organizations can take the burden of HR and payroll admin off your hands, offering reasonable pricing and robust features for a variety of different industries

    Kevin Brouillard
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Advertiser Disclosure: Our unbiased reviews and content are supported in part by affiliate partnerships, and we adhere to strict guidelines to preserve editorial integrity.

Many small businesses use software apps to handle certain administrative tasks, like accounting and payroll. Most payroll software solutions can provide enough support to meet the needs of the average small business, but they’re not right for everyone. If HR duties like payroll and tax filing are still bogging you down, your business could benefit from working with a Professional Employment Organization (PEO) to handle these responsibilities.

A PEO is a company that performs administrative, financial, and HR services for small and mid-size businesses. PEOs may specialize in certain tasks or have an industry-specific focus. Generally, they are equipped to take on small business functions like benefits administration, payroll processing, employee onboarding and training, and legal compliance.

To determine who are the best PEO companies, we considered price, available features, and the types of small businesses they’re best suited for. Read on to find the right PEO solution for your business.

Learn More About Our Top Picks

CompanyBest ForNext StepsBest For
Paychex

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Best PEO for customization and hands-on support.
Best PEO for customization and hands-on support.

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ADP Payroll

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Best PEO for extensive features and customer service.
Best PEO for extensive features and customer service.

Get A Quote

Read More

Justworks

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Best PEO for employee benefits and businesses with <5 employees.
Best PEO for employee benefits and businesses with <5 employees.

Visit Site

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TriNet

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Best PEO for industry-specific expertise.
Best PEO for industry-specific expertise.

Visit Site

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Oasis Outsourcing

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Best PEO for startups.
Best PEO for startups.

Visit Site

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Other Featured Options:

  • Rippling: Best PEO for integrations and remote employee management.
  • CoAdvantage : Best PEO for growing businesses and analytics.

Read more below to learn why we chose these options.

The 7 Best PEO Companies For Small Businesses

Given the importance of HR and payroll services, we recommend comparing multiple options before settling on a PEO provider. To help narrow your search, we’ve evaluated the top PEO firms for you. The following are some of the most popular and well-rated PEOs for small business:

  • Paychex
  • ADP Total Source
  • Justworks
  • TriNet
  • Oasis Outsourcing
  • Rippling PEO
  • CoAdvantage 360

Read on for a detailed breakdown of the best 7 PEO companies.

1. Paychex

Paychex



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Best PEO for customization and hands-on support.

Paychex has built a reputation as a small business payroll provider. Through their PEO services, Paychex delivers an all-in-one payroll and HR platform for small businesses. On the customer end, the Paychex Flex software is relatively easy to use and 24/7 customer support is on hand to help with setup and ongoing use. Paychex offers an extensive selection of employee benefits, including:

  • Group and individual health insurance
  • 401(k) and retirement services
  • Health benefit accounts
  • Dental and vision insurance
  • Tax-saving plans

In addition to payroll processing and benefits administration, customers can incorporate recruiting, learning management systems, risk management, time and attendance tracking, and employee performance management into a PEO package.

Paychex is counted among the best PEO companies for tailoring their features and services to a business’s unique needs. Customers have the benefit of working directly with a designated HR professional to develop a customized plan. This one-on-one service can also help identify internal issues and inefficiencies.

Pros

  • Hands-on customer and HR support
  • Variety of options for employee benefits (e.g., insurance plans)
  • PEO plans are tailored to a small business’s needs and preferences

Cons

  • Pricing is not transparent and subject to annual change
  • Five-employee minimum for PEO services
  • Add-on features can be expensive for small business budgets

Is Paychex Reliable?

Paychex has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, but some user reviews highlight issues with hidden fees and delays in discontinuing PEO services. In terms of security, Paychex protects customer data through malware detection, firewalls, and encryption.

How Much Does Paychex Cost?

Although Paychex pricing is not disclosed outright on their website, they claim to calculate rates on a per-employee basis. Reviews indicate that small business customers were quoted a flat rate per employee to be charged each pay period. The type of features included in a PEO plan will also impact Paychex cost.

Paychex periodically offers free trials and other promotions, giving businesses a chance to give their PEO services a test run.

Get Started with Paychex

Read our in-depth review

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2. ADP Total Source

ADP Payroll



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Best PEO for extensive features and customer service.

ADP is one of the biggest players in the workforce and HR management industry, with over two million small business employees supported by its services. This scale gives small businesses greater access to features, resources, and services. For starters, ADP TotalSource boasts Fortune 500-level healthcare plans and full-service payroll. ADP also has a wide range of specialized benefits that small businesses can offer their employees, such as telehealth services, commuter benefits, and discounts on travel, retail, and entertainment.

Switching to a PEO provider will require some adjustment for you and your employees. Fortunately, customer service is another reason ADP ranks as one of the best PEO companies for small businesses. Employees can contact specialized ADP MyLife advisors by email, phone, and live chat with questions related to payroll, benefits, and tech issues. Small business customers will also receive a designated HR consulting team for advice and hands-on assistance.

Pros

  • Access to specialized HR consultants
  • Excellent choice of features and integrations
  • HR, payroll, and compliance support available for employees in more than180 countries.
  • User-friendly portal and mobile app

Cons

  • Like Paychex, ADP has a five-employee minimum for PEO services
  • Pricing is not disclosed publicly
  • Can be pricey for smaller businesses

Is ADP TotalSource Reliable?

The ADP TotalSource platform is reliable and user-friendly for employers and employees to complete tasks like onboarding and filling out timesheets. ADP is IRS-certified and prioritizes data security and privacy for small businesses. Customers will be notified of security updates and can take advantage of free resources outlining best practices for keeping your business protected.

How Much Does ADP TotalSource Cost?

Similar to Paychex, small businesses will need to contact an ADP sales representative for a custom price quote. ADP TotalSource cost is determined by location, number of employees, and selected features.

Get Started with ADP Payroll

Read our in-depth review

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3. Justworks

Justworks



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Best PEO for employee benefits and businesses with <5 employees.

Since launching in 2012, Justworks has emerged as the fastest-growing PEO for small businesses. Justworks provides full-service benefits administration, payroll processing, HR, and compliance support within its two PEO plans: Basic and Plus.

Small businesses that opt for the Plus Plan can access Justworks’ full suite of corporate-level employee benefits. This includes health insurance plans from Aetna, Kaiser, and United, dental and vision insurance, HSA and FSA accounts, and wellness perks. Justworks can also assist with COBRA administration. Another noteworthy feature is Justworks’ time and attendance program, Justworks Hours, which integrates across the platform to automate payroll and other HR tasks.

Pros

  • Transparent pricing
  • User-friendly interface
  • Excellent benefits packages and options for add-on plans

Cons

  • Limited reporting and customization
  • No mobile app for employers or employees

Is Justworks Reliable?

Justworks is reputed for advanced technology across its services, and this extends to security and privacy as well. Some measures they take include bank-level encryption, two-factor authentication data storage, daily vulnerability scans, and quarterly audits and risk assessments.

How Much Does Justworks Cost?

Unlike ADP and Paychex, Justworks discloses pricing upfront for both plans. Here’s how the pricing compares:

Basic Plan:

  • <25 employees: $49 per employee
  • 25-99 employees: $44 per employee
  • 100-174 employees: $39 per employee
  • 175+ employees: Contact Justworks for a quote

Plus Plan:

  • <25 employees: $99 per employee
  • 25-99 employees: $89 per employee
  • 100-174 employees: $79 per employee
  • 175+ employees: Contact Justworks for a quote

Read our in-depth review

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4. TriNet

TriNet



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Best PEO for industry-specific expertise.

Similar to other PEOs on this list, TriNet delivers full-service payroll processing, HR, benefits administration, compliance support, and risk mitigation services to small and midsize businesses. Tailoring services and assistance to different industry sectors is where TriNet stands out among the best PEOs. Depending on a small business’s needs and sector, Trinet provides a personal team of consultants with relevant experience and expertise. Trinet’s team is specialized in the following industries:

  • Architecture & Engineering
  • Consulting
  • Education
  • E-commerce
  • Financial Services
  • Life Sciences
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing & Advertising
  • Nonprofit
  • Retail & Wholesale
  • Technology

With Trinet, small businesses can step back from benefits administration and choose from a range of plans for their employees. This includes health insurance, auto and home insurance, commuter benefits, and marketplace discounts on national brands like Verizon, AT&T, Hyatt, and Restaurant.com

Pros

  • Dedicated team of industry experts
  • Numerous employee benefits options
  • Strong payroll features

Cons

  • Five-employee minimum
  • Unclear security measures

Is TriNet Reliable?

Trinet’s privacy policy expresses the company’s commitment to safeguard and protect customer’s data and personal information. However, Trinet does not lay out the methods and practices it employs to keep small businesses secure.

How Much Does TriNet Cost?

Trinet’s pricing structure is based on the number of employees, industry, and chosen services. Interested small businesses will have to request a personalized quote. Trinet will break down the monthly rate into line items so business owners know what they’re paying for and how to better craft a plan that works for their budget.

Read our in-depth review

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5. Oasis Outsourcing

Oasis Outsourcing



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Best PEO for startups.

Oasis Outsourcing is owned and operated by Paychex, but offers a range of services that are better suited for startups with more rapidly evolving needs. Oasis is a comprehensive PEO, offering assistance with HR, benefits administration, risk management, payroll processing, and other tech solutions. Through customized plans, small businesses and startups can select the services they need while cutting out unnecessary features to save on cost. What’s more, businesses can add or revise services later on to scale with growth or downturns.

Oasis’s hands-on customer support also contributes to its ranking as one of the best PEO companies for small businesses. Oasis will assign specialists in HR, payroll, and employee management based on a customer’s unique needs. Like Trinet, Oasis’s team of experts are specialized in a variety of industries, including:

  • Education
  • Financial Services
  • Hospitality & Restaurants
  • Light Manufacturing
  • Membership Clubs
  • Professional Services
  • Retail
  • Senior Living
  • Technology & Engineering

At the same time, Oasis extends some perks from its larger parent company. In particular, Oasis can bundle a variety of benefits plans, including health, vision, and dental insurance, as well as wellness coaching, commuter benefits, retirement plans, and HSA and FSA accounts.

Pros

  • Knowledgeable experts in a variety of sectors
  • Easy to customize and scale plans
  • Multiple options for employee benefits

Cons

  • Must sign a one-year contract
  • Five-employee minimum

Is Oasis Outsourcing Reliable?

Oasis Outsourcing is backed by Paychex — one of the longest-running HR and employment services companies in the business. They’ve been accredited as a PEO by the Better Business Bureau, IRS, and Employer Services Assurance Corporation (ESAC). This means that Oasis has been vetted for its finances and tax compliance.

How Much Does Oasis Outsourcing Cost?

Small businesses will need to request a custom quote from Oasis Outsourcing. Contracts are issued for one year, though customers can give 30 days’ notice to cancel.

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6. Rippling PEO

Rippling



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Best PEO for integrations and remote employee management.

Rippling PEO covers the bases in terms of payroll, benefits administration, compliance support, and risk management. Each solution is organized in its own module that can be accessed from the main Rippling interface. Other business software can be integrated here as well. Rippling offers more than 400 integrations, including applications related to collaboration, customer support, design, finances, HR, marketing, and sales.

As remote work becomes increasingly common, small businesses will be tasked with managing employees and technology in dispersed locations. In terms of tech, Rippling PEO provides remote device management for employees via an auto-installing app. This allows small business owners and the PEO team to make changes to any employee’s laptop from the Rippling platform. Businesses with employees in multiple states can receive assistance on local tax registration and meeting minimum wage levels across locations.

Pros

  • Incredible integration options
  • Ease-to-use interface
  • Strong multi-state employee management

Cons

  • Lacks IRS and ESAC accreditation
  • Phone support is an add-on feature

Is Rippling PEO Reliable?

Rippling does not have key accreditations like many of its competitors on our best PEO list. However, the platform’s advanced IT support is helpful for keeping data and privacy secure across a remote workforce.

How Much Does Rippling PEO Cost?

Rippling PEO pricing is not entirely transparent. Plans start at a monthly rate of $8 per employee. Costs will increase as additional services are tacked on.

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7. CoAdvantage 360

CoAdvantage



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Best PEO for growing businesses and analytics.

CoAdvantage 360 is a comprehensive PEO with a knack for payroll, benefits administration, risk and compliance support, and HR services. Growing businesses can take advantage of employee recruitment services to find the best candidates. CoAdvantage’s recruiting team can help tailor job descriptions, post jobs to appropriate recruitment websites, schedule interviews, and conduct pre-employment assessments.

The CoAdQuantum online portal allows businesses to manage HR duties, such as PTO tracking and employee training. Additionally, the portal lets users generate over 70 types of reports and analyze a variety of metrics in real-time. This is a major asset for business owners looking to maximize productivity to further growth. And CoAdvantage’s compensation management tools make it easy to reward high-performing employees with bonuses and merit pay.

Pros

  • Solid reporting and analytics
  • Recruiting and employee screening support
  • Strong payroll features

Cons

  • Pricing is not transparent
  • Lacks industry specialists
  • Less benefits options than other top PEO companies

Is CoAdvantage 360 Reliable?

CoAdvantage is a growing business, and some user reviews claim that its rise has outpaced service quality to an extent.

How Much Does CoAdvantage 360 Cost?

CoAdvantage 360 does not have set plans or pricing. Instead, businesses can request a custom quote.

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Looking For A Different PEO?

There are hundreds of PEOs to choose from. And while there are many reputable companies, they don’t all excel in a specific area like our top seven PEOs. The following PEO company didn’t quite make the cut.

Amplify PEO

Amplify PEO offers the standard features needed for HR and workforce management. However, Amplify does not stand out for a specific type of business or facet of HR services. Amplify’s website does not convey much detail about its services compared to the best PEOs on this list. For instance, Amplify highlights third-party integrations but does not identify any applicable apps. It’s worth noting that Amplify claims to have saved companies $1,185 annually per employee on average. This is encouraging for receiving a return on investment, but businesses that meet other criteria outlined above (industry-specific needs, growing businesses, etc.) will likely benefit from another PEO company.

Choosing The Best PEO For Your Business

When evaluating PEOs for your business, it’s helpful to consider what services you want to outsource and what support your employees need to succeed. And since many PEOs don’t divulge their pricing publicly, it’s worth requesting quotes from multiple companies to find a solution that works for your budget.

Small businesses dedicate about 17% of their working hours to administrative tasks. Outsourcing payroll, benefits administration, and other HR duties to a PEO can save precious time and money that could be better spent on running and growing your business. To learn more about PEO services and structure, check out our PEO guide.

FAQs About Hiring A PEO

What is a PEO?

A professional employment organization (PEO) provides administrative, financial, and HR services for small and mid-size businesses. PEOs may specialize in certain areas or industries. In general, they help small businesses take on important functions like benefits administration, payroll processing, employee onboarding and training, and legal compliance.

What is the best PEO?

The best PEO for your business will depend on your unique needs and budget. In the article above, we’ve outlined situations when ADP, Paychex, Rippling, CoAdvantage, Trinet, Justworks, and Oasis Outsourcing would be the best PEO for small businesses. 

Do only large companies use PEOs?

Businesses of all sizes can use PEOs for HR and workforce services. However, businesses with fewer than five employees won’t have as many options for cost-effective PEOs. 

How much do PEOs cost?

PEO cost varies according to location, type of business, number of employees, and services provided. Many PEOs give price quotes on a case-by-case basis. In general, you can expect to pay anything from $8/employee to upwards of $100/employee.

How does hiring a PEO work?

To hire a PEO, small businesses enter a co-employment agreement. This structure allows the small business customer and PEO to share legal and tax responsibilities. 

In Summary: The 7 Best PEO Companies For Small Businesses

  1. Paychex: Best PEO for customization and hands-on support.
  2. ADP Payroll: Best PEO for extensive features and customer service.
  3. Justworks: Best PEO for employee benefits and businesses with <5 employees.
  4. TriNet: Best PEO for industry-specific expertise.
  5. Oasis Outsourcing: Best PEO for startups.
  6. Rippling: Best PEO for integrations and remote employee management.
  7. CoAdvantage : Best PEO for growing businesses and analytics.
Kevin Brouillard

Kevin Brouillard

Kevin Brouillard is a writer, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, aspiring goat farmer, and finance specialist based in Upstate New York. In addition to covering small business topics for Merchant Maverick, he has experience writing about environmental issues, travel, and personal finance.
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