By Daniel Lewis,
/ Advertising Disclosure

4.8 / 5
TOTAL SCORE
SUMMARY

Businesses that are looking for effortless full-service payroll with employee self-onboarding and automatic tax reporting, as well as dedicated HR services for employee red tape.

DETAILED RATING
Features
Pricing
User Experience
Security
Integrations & Add-Ons
Service & Support
POSITIVES
  • Easy To Use
  • Flexible Payroll
  • Extremely Functional
  • Automatic Tax Reporting
  • All In One Solution
  • Employee Benefits
NEGATIVES
  • Can Run A Little Slowly
  • Serious Issues Regarding Benefits Administration
  • Negative Reports And Low Rating On BBB And Trustpilot.

Gusto is an interesting provider in the sense that it provides high-quality HR services in tandem with its payroll provisions. It is the real deal when it comes to all-in-one solutions.  

I took the software for a test drive and was more than happy with the results, though I noticed some areas that were certainly in need of improvement. Gusto performed well in multiple areas and the core functionality includes:

  • Payroll
  • Payroll Taxes
  • Employee Benefits
  • Employee Onboarding
  • New Hire Reporting
  • Automation
  • Payment Options
  • HR Services

Its HR services really make it stand out from other providers, who tend to shy away from this intricate area. Below I have broken down the Gusto framework so you can decide for yourself if it’s a fit for your business.

Remember that Gusto is primarily a payroll service with HR/benefits administration at the upper price tiers. It is not an accounting solution, though it integrates with many reputable accounting platforms. 

Editor’s Note: Comparing Gusto to other payroll providers is not an Apples to Apples comparison. This is because HR, benefits, and payroll are usually completely separate as far as software is concerned. Gusto has blended them into one and is one of the few all-in-one solutions for HR, payroll, and onboarding services. And Gusto goes farther than the payroll providers that do offer benefits, making it stand out even more. This is one of the best platforms out there in terms of payroll provisions, with automatic filing and easy onboarding.

Gusto Online Features

There are so many features to cover with Gusto that it can be hard to break it down succinctly, but I’m here to do exactly that!

First things first. Gusto is pretty much flawless when it comes to employee onboarding. It allows for both W2 and 1099 contractors onboarding and automatically reports new hires. Employees or contractors can easily log in to the system to review pay stubs, hours worked, benefits, etc. The employees self onboard and this is easy to do. That’s all that needs to be mentioned in terms of onboarding.

For the payroll functionality, Gusto allows a number of payment options, which will suit the different kinds of workers. Gusto allows you to run an unlimited number of payrolls each month, while most competitors charge for this feature. This is useful as most businesses will need to run different payroll schedules for different types of employees. Gusto has a simple no-nonsense monthly fee. You can also save your payroll and come back to it later if you are unsure – I have not found this feature in any other payroll provider.

In terms of HR, Gusto has actually incorporated tools that help businesses to find and recruit employees. If your business has an existing benefits provider, you can transfer them to Gusto. With Gusto, the list of benefits is simply gigantic. It obviously offers standard retirement plans as well as medical, dental, vision, life insurance, and disability coverage. But the site goes well beyond that, covering everything from commuter benefits to charity matching to gym & fitness to cell phones. You can even set up custom benefits! I could go on, but suffice to say that Gusto is impressive when it comes to benefits administration.

Here is a list of the specific features offered by Gusto:

  • Employee Types – You can use Gusto to pay all employee types. This includes full- and part-time W2 employees as well as freelancers, consultants, and other 1099 contractors.
  • Payroll Processing – Once you’ve entered all the pertinent information (pay rate, hours worked, deductions, etc.), the system automatically calculates the payroll for each pay period. The only information typically needed for each pay period is how many hours each employee worked (for hourly workers) and any bonuses or commissions they earned. It only takes a few minutes to run payroll
  • Payment Options – With Gusto, there are several ways employees can be paid each pay period including direct deposit, prepaid debit cards, and printed checks. With direct deposit, paycheck amounts are automatically deposited into each worker’s bank account on payday.
  • Payroll Taxes – Gusto handles all your company’s payroll tax responsibilities. The payroll software automatically calculates the payroll taxes and fills out and files the required payroll tax forms with each local, state, and federal agency. It also makes all the required payroll payments on your business’s behalf.
  • End of Year Forms – The payroll software automatically generates all year-end W-2 and 1099 tax forms. It then sends digital copies of the forms to each employee and contractor.
  • Paid Time Off – Depending on your service plan, Gusto can handle some or all of your PTO management. All service plans can track PTO. Employers can set up policies for vacation and sick time and then track employees’ accruals and balances. Both the Concierge and Complete plans can handle time-off requests. Employees can submit requests for time off in the payroll software, and managers can approve or deny those requests.
  • New Hire Reporting – Each state requires official notification when employees are hired. Gusto will complete and file all required paperwork with the state for each of your new hires. The forms include the new employee’s name, address, and Social Security number, along with the employer’s name, address, and federal employer identification number.
  • Human Resources Services – Gusto’s wide range of available HR services includes online job-offer and signature documents, employee directories, organizational charts, anonymous employee surveys, survey trend analysis, HR compliance help, and proactive compliance updates, on-demand access to HR professionals, employee relations advice, custom employee handbooks, job description templates, HR guides and policy templates, and harassment prevention training.
  • Additional Services – Other services available through Gusto include 401(k) retirement plans, 529 college savings plans, health benefits, workers’ compensation insurance, health savings, and flexible spending accounts, and commuter benefits.

Gusto Price Plan

Gusto runs more expensive than the competition, but it’s worth it, in my opinion. There are 4 Gusto price plans:

  1. Gusto Contractor – This retails at $6 per month per contractor. This allows 1099 creation and filing only. You can have as many contractors as you want on this plan. You still have the payroll function and there is no base price, unlike practically all competitors.
  2. Gusto Core – The most common option. This retails at $39 per month and $6 per employee/contractor. The main emphasis is on the payroll.
  3. Gusto Complete – This costs $39 per month and $12 per additional employee. But it also allows benefits administration as well as hiring/onboarding tools.
  4. Gusto Concierge – This is a special package with a dedicated professional HR team. It costs $149 per month and $12 per additional employee.

While Gusto does offer benefits and administration, it does this at a price. The contractor option is similar to other companies such as Patriot Payroll Software, which charges $10 + $4 per contractor for its basic package. Check out the table below for more information on Gusto Core pricing versus the competition.

Brand Price For Standard Package What is on the plan
Gusto $39 Per Month & $6 Per Additional Employee. Full-Service Payroll, Automatic Tax Filing, Employee Self Service.
Patriot Payroll Software $30 Per Month & $6 Per Employee Full-Service Payroll, Manual Tax Filing,  Employee Self Service.
Intuit Quickbooks Online $35 Per Month Payroll, Invoicing, Expenses, Reporting
Zoho Payroll $19 Per Month & $2 Per Additional Employee Payroll, Employee Self Service.

Comparison with Similar Softwares

Because Gusto offers a diverse array of services, it can be tricky to compare them with others. Few payroll providers offer both HR and employee benefits. Its payroll services definitely stand out as this part works flawlessly. Employee self onboarding and automatic tax reporting are also truly helpful to people trying to save time and money. It’s the benefits and the HR package that need to be assessed.

Keep in mind that there are very few companies that offer HR, payroll, and benefits, and do a good job at all three of them. Many companies will focus on one or the other. It’s true that you can find a better payroll, a better HR, and a better benefits provider. But once you do, you will find integration issues between them. Interoperability is a vital component of business success.

Brand Price Functionality Ease of Use Customer Support Integrations
Gusto 3.5 4.5 4 4 5
Patriot Payroll Software 4 5 5 3.5 5
Intuit Quickbooks Online 5 4 5 5 3.5
Zoho Payroll 5 4 4.5 4 4.5

Gusto Integrations & Add-ons

Gusto does not quite have the number of integrations in comparison to other payroll providers, but it certainly has all of the essentials. It provides maybe 100 integrations, which is actually more than enough. Some of the more popular integrations include:

  • Intuit Quickbooks Online
  • Xero
  • Freshbooks
  • Zar Money
  • T Sheets
  • Homebase
  • Boomr
  • Shopify
  • Clover
  • Procare Connect
  • Hubstaff
  • Ethena
  • Ardius
  • Drate
  • Expensify
  • Goalspan
  • Brex

It has integrations for all major areas including accounting, business operations, time tracking, project management, tax, banking, financial insights, hiring, business operations, and employee development. The accounting and time tracking integrations are possibly the most important, and this is where most of the integrations will be found, along with time tracking.

I think that it has all the integrations that a business owner could need, but if you do rely on some specific and niche applications, then you might be out of luck in terms of integrations. You really need your accounting and project management tools to be able to sync with payroll and HR, as much as possible.

Gusto User Experience

The Gusto user experience is superb. It is very well designed and you can assess the platform on any browser as well as on mobile applications. The dashboard is neatly displayed including your to-do items. Reminders and employee details can be found by navigating to the left-hand side of the central page.

Adding an employee onto the system is extremely straightforward. All contractors/employees have their own login credentials to the system. They have lifetime access, meaning they can securely and privately access this information even after they have left your company. In other words, the user experience is great for both employees and employers. But it gets even better for employers, in particular. You can let your workers input their details. All you have to do is review and approve. The Gusto applications allow workers to link their bank accounts and receive notifications of payments.

Practically all users, including me, have found that the Gusto user experience is perfect. The interface is clean and slick without being overcrowded and buggy like many other platforms with tonnes of features and no good place to store them. The Gusto payroll user experience is unparalleled – everybody grows fond of the little pig that shows up while you’re waiting for a page to load!

Gusto Customer Service & Support

This is one unfortunate area where Gusto could improve. And this is actually a common theme among many software companies (Zoho, cough cough) that start out with a brilliant idea, deliver superb value for money, and then expand like crazy with no idea how to scale efficiently. It provides a lot of options but then fails when it comes to supporting those same options. 

It has a 3.3 rating on Trustpilot which is not the best rating, and most of the negative reviews are recent. I actually got my issue resolved after waiting for 15 minutes on the phone. But the problem is much deeper for benefits administration. You can only send an email when it comes to historical reporting. So when Gusto reports an error for benefits reporting, your email may not get a response for months. 

This is a serious issue. If payroll and benefits details are not properly filed, it has major implications. Potentially employees won’t have health insurance. There are plenty of reports of Gusto failing to file with insurers yet still telling customers that they were covered through the dashboard. Coupled with non-responsive customer service for benefits, this is a recipe for disaster that Gusto needs to rectify quickly. 

It’s worth noting that the poor level of customer service relates only to benefits administration. In general, customer service is actually very responsive and professional, and I found this to be the case when I called them with my query. While it has low reviews on Trustpilot and the BBB, it is rated highly on sites such as CapTerra (4.7 Stars). The question arises as to whether it has gone downhill and the reviews will follow, but I believe Gusto has a bright future. The platform and service is simply too powerful.

Gusto Software Security

Gusto discloses its software security and privacy features in detail on its privacy policy. They use industry-standard encryption on all communications and also have a dedicated team to secure the network. They test their own networks routinely for any breaches or weaknesses.

Obviously, Gusto will collect cookies and other web-related information when you visit their site. There is no real way around this, except for regularly clearing cookies and perhaps using a VPN service. When your data is used for statistical analysis, you are not personally identified within a larger group. Having read the policy, it is pretty much standard material in line with other payroll providers.

More importantly, Gusto has a security rating of 789 out of 950 on the UpGuard platform. The assessment considers areas including brand protection, phishing, malware, network security, email security, and website security. The errors noted were that Gusto discloses its server version on the header, does not use HTTP only cookies, and supports older SSL/TLS versions

But all things considered, Gusto software security is way better than average and it won’t be compromised anytime soon. 

 Gusto FAQ

What is Gusto Used For?

Gusto has quite a lot of functions. It is used as a payroll provider but also doubles as an HR resource and complete benefits administrator. Gusto can be used to onboard employees but this feature is found in most payroll providers nowadays. Gusto excels mainly because it is so useful in terms of benefits administration and HR. The ability to hit 3 birds with one stone is irresistible for many business owners.

What Is the Difference Between Gusto and Other Providers?

The main difference with Gusto is primarily that it has branched off from its initial payroll services towards HR and benefits administration. Benefits administration is rarely offered due to the complexity which they pose and the stringent legal and regulatory requirements. Gusto is mainly differentiated on its HR specialty. It has added a lot of onboarding and recruiting tools and this makes things a lot easier for business owners. It is able to easily cater to many different types of workers. It’s more expensive but ultimately worth it as a payroll provider with HR capabilities that are useful.

How Long Does It Take to Get Paid by Gusto?

Running payroll only takes 1 – 3 minutes. But the time it takes to hit the bank account of your employees might vary. All customers are automatically on 2-day payments when they enroll, though there is the potential to qualify for next-day payments. The deadline is 4 PM Pacific Time and if you do not have enough money in your account the payment is not going to go through. If you make a payment exceeding your deposit limit, it can take 4 days instead of 2 to come through. If you do miss a deadline, you can pay your employees by check or request an expedited payroll from Gusto. You have the option of choosing 1, 2, or 4-day payments through the gusto platform.

What Form of Payment Does Gusto Accept?

The most common way to pay employees through Gusto is direct deposit. This is the most popular payment option by far. But you can also pay employees via check. To change an employee payment method, go to the ‘People’ tab, click on the employee’s name, go to the ‘Job & Pay’ section, and select ‘Add Method’. All employees are paid through direct deposit by default. They input their bank details in the self-onboarding process which makes it a lot easier for business owners to run payroll. A pretty unique feature is the Gusto Wallet, which your employees can use as a cash account. It acts as a bank within an app, connected directly to an employee’s cash flow, to help them manage their money. It also claims to offer a 7x higher interest rate than the national average.

Conclusion

Gusto is perfect for businesses looking for a smooth and effortless payroll. It also provides a great way to manage HR at a really affordable rate and it has integrated a lot of new tools with regard to onboarding and recruitment. At this stage, it’s probably best to leave it alone in terms of benefits administration, as there do seem to be certain errors in this area.

However, these errors are having a disproportionate effect in terms of online reviews. This is the only area where it is falling down. Its payroll and HR services are excellent and it is an easy, smooth, and functional platform to use that makes payroll a breeze. I loved it and had zero issues. This is the only trial I have ever done where this has been the case.

Daniel Lewis
Daniel Lewis
Daniel Lewis is an MBA accredited investment professional who wants to assist small business owners to gain access to finance. After going through many channels for funding, Lewis has found that getting the first loan right is vitally important for future success.

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