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OnPay’s strong payroll and HR tools make it a versatile solution for larger companies and those in vertical industries. OnPay is also capable, user-friendly, and affordable enough that smaller businesses should consider it, too.
Cloud-based payroll service OnPay is one of the best payroll services, enabling managers to create comprehensive employee records and run unlimited payrolls each month. The service supplies multiple customizable (and custom) reports. It also handles the calculation and payment of all payroll taxes. New features and enhancements include a completely rebuilt employee app, better support for collaboration with accountants and clients, and upgraded security.
OnPay is an excellent choice for an online payroll service because of its speed, flexibility, price, and simplicity. The user experience is excellent, among the best you’ll find. It’s an Editors’ Choice winner for organizations with 100 employees or fewer and those in vertical industries.
How Much Does OnPay Cost?
OnPay charges a $36 per month fee, plus $4 per employee per month. The cost is within the average pricing range for online payroll software for small businesses. OnPay also offers a free one-month trial.
As a point of comparison, Patriot Software has a base price of $37 per month ($17 per month if you’re willing to file and deposit your own taxes), plus $4 per employee per month. Square Payroll, on the other hand, costs $29 per month, plus $5 per employee per month. Gusto starts at $39 per month, plus $6 per employee per month, but it goes up to a base price of $149 per month, plus $12 per person per month.
Getting Started With OnPay
Setting up a small business payroll application is the most labor-intensive and difficult part of having one. Not only are there hundreds of details to enter, but accuracy is absolutely critical. The work you do during the setup directly affects your employees’ livelihoods, as well as their access to company benefits. Additionally, taxing agencies don’t look kindly on late, incorrect, or missing payments.
How you set OnPay up for your payroll processing depends largely on whether you’ve paid employees before in your current business. It also depends on the industry your company serves. OnPay can be easily set up to support the unique needs of companies in a variety of vertical industries, like farms, nonprofits, restaurants, and medical offices. Competitors can also serve such businesses, but OnPay has specialists in a number of areas.
If you’re starting a new payroll using OnPay, you can go through the entire setup process on your own, though OnPay representatives are available to help you as needed. If you need to enter payroll history, a payroll specialist will contact you and help you import that data. The company offers a full accuracy guarantee and takes total responsibility if any historical data is entered incorrectly.
A word about pay schedules: You can create multiple, unlimited schedules if you like, and pay employees on different schedules. These options make OnPay more flexible than some other online payroll services.
Adding Employees and Benefits
Once you complete the initial setup, you need to enter employee records. You can either create the entire record yourself or invite employees to enter their own data—excluding the details for compensation and other HR-related issues, which you still need to enter. Patriot Software and other payroll services offer similar options.
Once employees enter their personal information, you see it in their records and can complete the employer portion of the screens. Once all the required information is in, these records contain all payroll and HR details, including deductions, compensation, time off, and personnel files.
OnPay introduced a terrific employee records feature last year: custom forms. They’re easy to create and support multiple types of data fields, such as text boxes, drop-down lists, and dates. You could use these in employee records to, for example, track computer equipment.
Before you can run a payroll, you still must complete other setup tasks. For instance, you might define accrual policies, such as how many hours employees have to work to earn PTO, sick time, and so on, as well as what pay types you use (regular hours, salary, overtime, and bonus). OnPay supports dozens of pay types, and it allows you to create your own. It makes good use of custom fields here and elsewhere on the site. In fact, it offers more places you can use custom fields than competitors do, with the exception of Rippling.
Plan to spend a lot of time setting up your deductions, primarily whatever health insurance and retirement plans your business offers. You can define other types of deductions, too, including garnishments. OnPay can serve as your insurance broker to help you select and set up employee insurance benefits, such as health, dental, life, and disability. The company’s team will even research options for you and provide quotes. If you have existing benefits providers, you can bring them into OnPay.
Integration With Other Apps and Services
Another setup task involves connecting to third-party services. OnPay can integrate your payroll data with accounting services, including QuickBooks Online, the desktop version of QuickBooks, Xero (for which OnPay is a certified app partner), FreshBooks, as well as other business services, such as time-tracking apps. The site offers powerful account mapping, which helps you set up your payroll in a way that’s consistent with the account structure of your accounting application.
All the payroll services I tested and reviewed in 2022 offer integrations, though SurePayroll has links to the most accounting solutions.
Putting Data on the Page
Managing payroll can be an exasperating, detail-heavy process, so it’s key to have an online account that makes it less of a burden. OnPay provides an excellent user experience that rarely gets in the way of or detracts from the operation. Its effective use of color, fonts, and graphics provides a pleasant, good-looking environment. Some screens require a lot of scrolling, especially if you have dozens of employees. There’s simply so much data to view, and managers want to see as much as possible simultaneously. Creating a usable yet data-filled interface is a challenge every payroll system faces.
Sometimes you need to consult another screen when you’re completing a payroll task. For example, you might want to look at an employee’s profile record when you’re running payroll or view a timesheet breakdown when you’re reviewing the time tracking screen in preparation for approvals. OnPay never forces you to backtrack to the related screen. It either slides a panel out from the side or drops another screen in front that can easily be dismissed.
The navigation links in the toolbar and their corresponding menus break down the site into links to tools and data. You have to learn early on whether you should go to the Payroll, HR, or Company links, for example, to find a particular resource. Overall, though, OnPay is a clean, intuitive, and fast-loading site.
Navigation is driven by icons in the left vertical toolbar. Clicking the Dashboard icon always takes you back to the home screen. Another icon opens links to employee and contractor information screens, with additional links for things like year-end adjustments, new employees, and an hours worksheet. The Worker Files link in this section takes you to a comprehensive list of employee documents that have been distributed and signed or are expiring, such as the employee handbook; W-4s and I-9s; offer letters; and the non-compete policy. The files are searchable, and they’re also available in each employee and contractor’s record.
Other icons bring you to the payroll, payroll filings and payments, a list of reports, HR tools and data, employee time off, and the company menu.
Reports, HR Management, Employee Time Off
Reports are split between payroll and benefits. You can customize them with multiple filters, display them directly on the screen, open them in Excel, or save them as PDFs. The Payroll Listing report allows significantly more customization than it did previously. You can add up to 40 items by dragging and dropping them into position among the standard columns. It’s the most powerful reporting tool I’ve seen in the payroll sites I’ve reviewed, with the exception of Rippling’s build-your-own.
OnPay has really beefed up its HR management capabilities over the last couple of years. In fact, its abilities make it competitive with more advanced HR-and-payroll solutions. HR has its own dashboard that displays personnel tasks needing to be completed, including onboarding to-do’s, pending employee offers, and time-off information.
The Employee Time Off screen shows who’s out of the office now, who will be soon, and any time off requests. OnPay enables online conversations between employees and the administrator about time off. The site has added this communications ability in other areas of the site, and it’s a terrific and useful feature.
Tracking Time Worked
A Company menu contains much of what used to be in the Settings menu. Here, you can set up pay items, deductions, locations, departments, positions, and accrual policies. Below is a link to OnPay’s time tracking. It’s a one-page overview of hours worked by employees during the current pay period. You can see at a glance the total number of hours worked as well as the totals for overtime, double overtime, and time off.
Below that is a table of employees showing the total hours each worked along with their pay types. Click the View link next to each worker and a panel slides out from the right showing the daily hours breakdown. Managers can review the hours and approve them here before they’re eventually moved into payroll. This new tool makes it much easier to ensure the accuracy of hours worked.
Most payroll websites have become critical resources for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic because of all the ways the pandemic has affected businesses. OnPay provides the two reports needed for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): Average Monthly Payroll Cost Report and Payroll Costs Report for PPP Loan Forgiveness. OnPay can modify your payroll if you indicate you’re eligible for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). The site also provides a guide to resources for the ways your small business may be affected by COVID-19 legislation (some of this information is dated).
Using the OnPay Dashboard
OnPay always opens to your main dashboard, and you can return to it from the toolbar. Links to your employee and contractor records appear at the top of the screen, along with their pictures. If any alerts or tasks need attention, you’ll see them displayed there, too.
OnPay has corrected a problem I had with it last year. The Dashboard didn’t make very good use of the screen area, so there was a lot of white space. Now, it’s more responsive to device and browser sizes. Four big tiles contain links to your most recent pay runs, your next scheduled pay run, important dates, and open employee offers. You can customize them and turn off ones you don’t want.
Running Your Payroll With OnPay
If you have multiple pay schedules, you must first indicate which pay run you’re initiating. Once on the Run Payroll screen, you can use one of three methods to assign hours to employees. If you’ve been using one of the integrated time-tracking applications OnPay supports, you can import those numbers. You can also bring hours in from OnPay’s own Time Tracking tool. Or you can enter hours worked manually.
You select the employees you want to pay from the list on the first screen of this three-step wizard (a status bar shows what step you’re on) by checking boxes. The page also displays related information at the top, like period start and end, check date, the number of workers, and total hours and wages.
The Run Payroll screen contains all the information you need for this task. It’s quite flexible. The page displays a list of all your workers and their current pay information. You can click on workers’ names to open their records for reference or editing. Click on the worker’s highlighted wages on the payroll screen, and a panel slides out from the right. You can add, reorder, or remove pay items, and add or override existing numbers. You can also set up new custom pay types. Not every payroll site offers this kind of on-the-fly work.
Click Preview Check to see a breakdown for that pay run and click Next to scroll through all your workers’ editable screens without returning to the main screen. After some rapid, automatic calculating, OnPay moves to the payroll review page, which displays each employee’s hours, gross wages, employee taxes, employer taxes, employer contributions, deductions, and net pay. Click on the net pay number, and that employee’s pay information slides out from the right.
Links at the bottom of the screen let you see your company’s total payroll cost and employee net pay. This screen also displays warnings about anything that may have gone awry with your run so you can fix it. Finally, numbers for your total cost, payroll debit date and amount, and direct deposit amount (and the date it will occur) are at the bottom of the screen. Click Submit, and you’re all done.
The confirmation page that opens summarizes your payroll and withdrawal dates and provides links to reports, the check-printing page, and the Void Run command. OnPay takes care of calculating and submitting all required payroll taxes—something competitors also do.
Employee Access and Support Resources
Like the competition, OnPay supports employee portals. Workers can sign in to a separate site to see their current and historical payroll data, access employee documents, modify personal information; and communicate with the payroll administrator about time-off requests. These accounts are valid for life, meaning employees can access them even after they’ve left the organization. All the payroll services I’ve reviewed offer employee portals, but OnPay’s and Patriot Software’s are better than others.
OnPay offers free phone, chat, and email help Monday through Friday and has added urgent email support on the weekend. Its online help resources continue to improve. Besides offering much more guidance, including many more help articles over the last year, they include payroll tax information for all 50 states.
OnPay on Mobile
OnPay doesn’t offer a separate admin mobile app, but it uses a responsive design that works fine on mobile device web browsers, which is how most payroll services do it. Navigation is easy. The toolbar is always available by clicking a link at the top of the screen. The mobile site replicates the desktop experience capably (with some exceptions), though some parts of the screen that display horizontally on the desktop display vertically on mobile devices. I expect to do a lot of scrolling on a smartphone for an application as complex and data-heavy as payroll. You can always turn the phone sideways, too. With OnPay, I rarely had to access a horizontal view. Most screens were perfectly readable, though the text was small on some payroll and report screens.
Two areas of OnPay are handled especially well on a smartphone. You can run a payroll, accessing the linked background screens that are available on the desktop without losing your place in the payroll run. Employee profiles are quite thorough as well, and many HR resources are available on mobile devices.
Not all the desktop functionality has moved over to the mobile version yet, however. It’s still missing many reports and payroll tax information. But OnPay is only rivaled by Workful in terms of its skill at providing nearly-complete functionality on smartphones.
OnPay’s Mobile App for Employees
OnPay was introducing a new employee app that was days away from appearing on the App Store and Google Play as I wrote this. Based on the preview I saw, the app far exceeds what competitors have done with their employee apps in terms of content, convenience, and use of mobile technology, although I have yet to formally test it. Five navigation links appear at the bottom: (Home, Time, My Info, Taxes, and Team), but you can do a lot of navigating within the app just by sliding screens side to side.
The homepage displays pictures of employees with links to key payroll information, such as Last Paycheck and Available Time Off. Click one, and the photos move around to illustrate reporting relationships. You can also click through to see comprehensive profile information. Other links allow employees to clock in and out, view pay stubs as text and charts, access tax-related information (you can even see original W-2s, for example), and collaborate with team members.