Do the Benefits of PEOs Justify the Costs?

September 7, 2023
Are PEO Costs Worth the Benefits? | TriNet

If you’re looking for an all-in-one solution to handle payroll processing, benefits administration and HR administration for your small business, you may be considering a professional employer organization (PEO). And for good reason: It's among the best ways to free up time and resources as a small business owner. But what about PEO costs? In the grand scheme of things, are they worth it? Let's look at PEO costs to consider before choosing this solution, so you can rest assured you're making the best choice for your business.

What is a PEO?

A professional employer organization is a firm that provides outsourced human resources management services to businesses. By working with a PEO, companies can offload certain HR tasks pertaining to payroll processing, employee benefits administration, HR compliance and workers' compensation solutions. A PEO becomes a co-employer, allocating certain responsibilities with the business and the PEO. This allows the company to focus on core operations while the PEO handles intricate HR functions. Beyond administrative relief, PEOs can offer smaller businesses access to big company benefits. Through this relationship, businesses can enhance efficiency, reduce certain costs and leverage the PEO's HR expertise.

The Cost to Use a PEO vs. Running Payroll and HR In-house

According to the PEO pricing guide produced by, the estimated average PEO costs between 2-12% of wages. That said, comparing the costs of a PEO to in-house payroll and HR costs involves more than crunching stated numbers. It's a matter of value, efficiency and foresight. For example, handling HR in-house might seem cost-effective initially. But hidden expenses may arise from software updates, continual training and potential HR compliance missteps, which can result in penalties and fines. PEOs, with their specialized focus, offer a holistic HR solution that often proves more viable in the long run.

PEOs bring expertise, helps with HR compliance and offer access to robust benefit options. With a PEO’s help, businesses can streamline their operations, reduce certain overhead costs, making this solution a wise investment choice for many.

Considering PEO Costs

Onboarding and setup costs

Businesses may encounter several setup costs when initially engaging with a PEO. These may include onboarding fees charged by the PEO to integrate the company's data and transition HR systems. There may be additional costs associated with configuring the PEO's software to align with the company's existing HR tech stack.

Also, the process might require internal staff training sessions. While it may not directly a charge by the PEO, they still represent a time and resource investment for the business.

Operational costs and administration fees

Operational costs associated with contracting a PEO can cover numerous ongoing expenses, the foremost being administrative fees. PEO pricing models can be structured as a flat fee per employee or a percentage of the total payroll. These fees cover such routine HR and administrative tasks as benefits administration, payroll services and processing, and tax compliance.

Businesses that use a PEO might also incur technology and platform fees for accessing the PEO's specialized HR software. Depending on the chosen services, this could involve costs for consultations or additional services tailored to the company's unique needs. This is why transparency is crucial in the PEO contract—it helps companies anticipate and budget for these operational costs.

Employee-related costs

When working with a PEO, businesses should expect several employee-related expenditures, the primary one being benefits. These may involve:

  • Health, dental and vision insurance.
  • Disability coverage.
  • Life insurance.
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs).
  • Workers' compensation insurance.
  • State unemployment insurance.

PEOs may also offer training and development platforms.

Compare PEO-sponsored benefits with existing or alternative packages to measure cost-effectiveness.

Contractual and exit costs

When working with a PEO, businesses should be vigilant about contractual and potential exit costs. Initial requirements may include minimum service durations or commitments. But exiting a PEO agreement prematurely often generates termination fees, which can be hefty depending on contract terms. Transitioning away from a PEO might also require resources to revert systems and processes. While this may not be a cost directly charged by the PEO, it can still affects the budget.

Miscellaneous costs

Engaging with a PEO can involve other, miscellaneous costs, notably from service limitations and change management. Issues arise when the PEO services don't cover specific HR functions. This compels a business to either manage them internally or outsource them elsewhere, incurring additional expenses. That means you must be picky about which PEO you choose; it should align with both your needs and budget.

In terms of management, transitioning to a PEO's system might necessitate employee training sessions and adjustments to existing workflows. The time taken for staff to adapt and any productivity lulls during this phase represent indirect costs. Businesses should factor these and other indirect costs into their budgeting.

Likewise, the consolidated buying power of a PEO could offer cost savings in benefits packages. But on the flip side, businesses should be wary of any cost structures in the agreement that might not serve them well.

Understanding PEO Costs

In navigating PEO costs, business owners must keep in mind balancing quality services with budget constraints. It's not always easy, and some PEOs make it easier than others. TriNet provides cost-effective, tailored solutions that cater to diverse business needs. Beyond cost alone, TriNet underscores value, delivering comprehensive HR solutions that often outperform standalone packages in both cost effectiveness and scope. Talk with a representative today to learn how this can be a game changer for your business and its people.

This communication is for informational purposes only, is not legal, tax or accounting advice, and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

This article may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such web sites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.

Additional Articles
ESAC Accreditation
We comply with all ESAC standards and maintain ESAC accreditation since 1995.
Certified PEO
A TriNet subsidiary is classified as a Certified Professional Employer Organization by the IRS.