Best Free HR Software – August 2020

The best free human resources software, benefits, pitfalls, features, and more.

Choosing the right HR software is a decision that will have an impact on virtually every member of your organization, even on potential ones. Whether it’s for onboarding, payroll management, benefits management, or time-off requests, your next Human Resources software will become an integral part of your company’s day to day operation. 

But what if you’re on a budget and can’t flesh out a high fee for every user just yet? Thinking of companies in this scenario, we decided to put together a list of 11 HR software solutions that have a completely operational free version. These are mostly not free trials, but free software options that you can use for unlimited time and for a wide variety of HR purposes. They’re also tools that we would use ourselves and have a strong reputation with HR managers in several industries.

We spend hundreds of hours researching the best HR and recruiting software so you don’t have to.  We never take money from vendors during our research phase and rely heavily on practitioners and experts to help us recommend the right software.  Most of the vendors featured on our site have no commercial relationship with us, we want to feature the best software for our readers regardless. Learn more

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Top Free HR Systems

We track thousands of HR Tech solutions, here are the best free HR software platforms as of August 2020

Among cloud-based applications for HR, SnapHRM is one of the hottest names right now. Their sleek design is quite easy to figure out and they get complimented a lot for the quality of their support. They offer a “Startup” version that’s completely free for up to 5 employees. After that, it’s still among the most modestly priced HR SaaS options, but their free version still gets you access to all the SnapHRM modules. These modules include: 

  • Payroll Management: A tool to generate payroll actions in a single click. You can review the salary components for each employee and create reports with ease.
  • Awards & Appreciations: This is one that not many vendors offer. HR staff can create digital versions of awards & appreciations to give out to employees and manage them with the rest of their HR data. 

Also included in the Startup plan are: 

  • Employee Database
  • Leave/Time Off Management
  • Time & Attendance Management
  • Recruiting
  • Expense Management
  • Document/Letter Management
  • Assets Management
  • Events/Holiday Management
  • News Board

Some of the companies that use SnapHRM are HarkHark, SmartDev, WDI, and NullObject.

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
SnapHRM

The interesting thing about Odoo is that they divide nearly all their feature offerings into stand-alone applications. Any of these is free for unlimited users and unlimited time until you either need more space or add another application. This is an excellent choice if you only need, say, time off tracking or a payroll app, and can be quite cost-friendly if you require only a few additional applications. It’s also comforting to know that, with Odoo, you only pay for what you use. Among their HR apps/features, you can find: 

  • Payroll: A one-stop-shop to manage all employee payroll records, allowances, deductions, payslips, and a monthly payroll register.
  • Appraisal: A comprehensive tool to periodically assess employees. It includes a calendar to schedule upcoming reviews, employee appraisal forms, and automation. A neat feature is that each review can be exported into a PDF. 

Other available apps are: 

  • Attendances
  • Recruitment
  • Employee Information
  • Employee Referral
  • Time Off
  • And many more, even outside of HR, like CRM, IoT, Marketing Automation, etc. 

Odoo is used by companies like Southern Wine Group, BizTech College, and XB Press Buyer

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
Odoo

To close off our list, we had to include one of the top names in human resources software. Unlike all the previous contenders, BambooHR doesn’t have a free version that you can use for unlimited time. However, they’re worth mentioning because they offer a free trial of their all-in-one software and then go out of their way to find a version that will suit you. Before they come up with a personalized quote that will fit your budget, however, they are also likely to extend your free trial upon request or even give you a free demo of the advanced features. Some of those include: 

  • People Data & Analytics: BambooHR strives to be the single and secure database where all your employee information is stored and managed. They couple that with powerful, intuitive reporting tools and a strong focus on security.
  • Mobile Hiring App: One of their most-talked-about perks, their hiring app gives recruiters the ease to perform most applicant tracking tasks with the comfort and extreme convenience with which you’d order some dinner. 

The basic BambooHR free trial includes: 

  • Benefit Tracking
  • Workflows & Approvals
  • Email Alerts
  • Time-Off Management
  • Company Calendar
  • Email Support and Webinar Library

Among the 18,000+ companies that use BambooHR, you’d find names like Quora, Universal Group, Reddit, and Asana.

Worth Checking Out:

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BambooHR

This is one of the most trusted and more established names in human resource management software. They offer all the necessary features to run an HR department in the modern era, except for payroll management. Their open-source version is completely free and quite scalable, but it does require you to manage your own servers. Some of their notable use cases include: 

  • Online Training: Few of the best free HR software options come with a tool to track and manage employee accreditations beyond onboarding. This is a great way to ensure performance management, training, and even certification happens in the same place.
  • Travel & Expense Tracker: Manages employee travel requests and handles expense claims with nice-to-have features like multi-currency claims, expense forms, fund allocation, and reporting. 

Also included in the free version are: 

  • Request Desk
  • Graphical Reporting
  • Leave/Time-off Management
  • Attendance Management
  • Recruitment
  • Personnel Information Management
  • Insurance & Benefits Administration
  • Document Manager
  • Mobile App
  • & more

Thousands of companies use one version or another of OrangeHRM. Some remarkable names include Johnny Rockets, Duke University, and RedHat.

Worth Checking Out:

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Orange HR

This all-in-one HR solution comes in several forms, Lite, Cloud, and self-hosted. The Lite version is stunningly free for unlimited employees and also offers a 45-day free trial with all the features from the IceHrm Cloud version, with the option to upgrade at any time after that. While the Lite version lacks certain potentially key features from the Cloud variant like recruitment, leave/vacation, payroll, and learning management, it does include the following: 

  • Employee Management: Centralize confidential HR information and set up access permissions for each user, making sure the info is both secure and accessible to the right team members.
  • Timesheets: Streamline the way employees keep track of their time spent with each task. The timesheets can be sent to approval to supervisors with ease and it syncs seamlessly with the attendance module.  

The lite version of IceHrm also includes: 

  • Document Management
  • Company Chat
  • Travel Management
  • Staff Directory
  • Reports
  • Weekly Backups
  • Email Support 

As a final note, while the folks at IceHrm don’t seem to list some of their clients, it’s remarkable that they have a presence in hundreds of countries. This is because they’ve made an effort to make sure their software adheres to the practices of each country.

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
IceHRM

This product from Freshworks, a business software developer from California, is an all-encompassing HR management solution specifically targeted for growing businesses. Freshteam can handle your human resources experience from job postings and applicant tracking all the way to features like an employee directory and time off management. Their Sprout version is completely free for up to 50 employees and includes: 

  • Applicant Tracking: A tool to manage up to 3 published job openings, set up a hiring team for each one of them, and create custom workflow stages for each hiring process.
  • Employee Self Service: Each team member can have a personal account and employee profile where they can consult useful information by looking at other employee’s profiles, as well as performing other HR tasks like document uploading. It also includes easy-to-set-up permissions. 

Also included in the free plan are: 

  • Email Integration
  • Kanban Boards
  • Team Collaboration
  • Employee Referral 
  • Mobile Apps (iOS and Android)

Freshteam is trusted by businesses such as SAP, Nissan, Daimler, and JCDecaux.

Worth Checking Out:

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Freshteam

This is a comprehensive HR tool that specializes in hourly work. While their time tracking tools are quite refined, their free version also offers team messaging, an app for employees, a hiring tool, and integrations with POS & payroll software. Their basic plan is free for unlimited employees, as long as the team is limited to one location. Let’s take a look at some of the use cases: 

  • Time Tracking: Apart from time clocks for people to punch in and punch out, Homebase also lets HR workers keep track of breaks and overtime, prepare timesheets for payroll, and it creates daily labor reports.
  • Scheduling & Availability: Homebase also offers an online schedule builder to establish and manage shifts. This tool even comes with templates and provides labor forecasts that help to avoid too much overtime. 

Also included in the free plan are: 

  • Built-in messenger
  • Team announcements
  • Employee shift feedback
  • Team profiles

Homebase is used by a wide array of small businesses in several industries, from restaurants and bars to retail, health, and hospitality.

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
Homebase

This is another option if your company would like to pursue the open-source route, but this HRMS is more clearly aimed at small-to-medium-sized businesses. It’s completely free, except for the fact that, since it’s open-source, you have to maintain your own servers. That being said, the Sentrifugo platform is easy to configure and extremely customizable. The main features include: 

  • Performance Appraisal: Everything an HR manager needs to assess an employee’s performance over a specific period of time, provide feedback, review self-appraisals, and keep track of objectives.
  • Analytics: Tied to the use of appraisals, Sentrifugo also provides analytics like user activity, attrition rates, and custom reports. All this can help HR professionals set long and short term goals for both the individual and the organization. 

Other Sentrifugo features include: 

  • Time-Off
  • Employee Prerequisites
  • Employee Self-Service
  • Background Check Tool
  • Leave Management
  • Service Requests
  • Talent Acquisition & Interview Scheduling
  • Time & Expense Management
  • Asset Management
  • Disciplinary Incident Management

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
Sentrifugo

While not the prettiest-looking software out there, WebHR is a good solution for SMEs that need a social tool and would like to be able to add or delete modules as they go. WebHR is free if you have less than 5 employees and, depending on the modules added, it can be as little as $1 a month per staff member. The base modules that it bundles together are enough for most HR departments and include a built-in messenger and discussion forum. Other modules such as Payroll and Recruitment can be added for meager fees that don’t exceed $2 per employee per month. The base modules include: 

  • Onboarding & Offboarding: This tool welcomes the new employee and lets them self-onboard from any device, filling out paperwork, training, signing and uploading documents, and even choosing their benefits plan.
  • Master Calendar: WebHR offers a master calendar that synchronizes with Google Calendar and Outlook, letting HR staff keep track of all the important dates, like company events, birthdays, anniversaries, meetings, leaves, and travel, from a single place. 

The other base modules are: 

  • Time & Attendance
  • Employee Database
  • Leaves & Paid Time Off
  • Dynamic Dashboards
  • Comprehensive Reports
  • Social HR
  • Communications Tools
  • Employees Directory
  • Files (Documents Storage)
  • Employee Self Service

According to their website, some of the companies that use WebHR include Nissan, WaterAid, zameen.com, and Budget.

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
WebHR

Nevertheless, the free plan also adds countless other features from the other Bitrix products. While not HR-focused, Bitrix24 is used by more than 7,000,000 organizations all over the world. While more of a collaboration SaaS platform with a massive variety of tools like CRM, project management, and even a website builder, Bitrix24 also offers a highly reliable and intuitive HR information system. As of 2020, it includes over 25 HR tools. From those, several such as company structure, employee directory, and company knowledge base are included in the free version for unlimited users. Some key features we’d like to highlight are: 

  • Employee Directory: A searchable list of past and present employees that displays their relevant data. The directory is also exportable as an Excel list and can synchronize with Outlook and CardDAV. The system also organizes the directory into a company structure chart.
  • Company Knowledge Base: This allows teams to gather all the key info that every employee should have into a single place. It also exists in the form of a project knowledgebase. 

The main problem with Bitrix24 as free HR software is that you don’t get certain tools that could be key, such as leave management and work time tracking and reports, unless you get the most expensive version.

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
Bitrix

Zoho is a software company that makes everything from CRM to bookkeeping tools. Naturally, they also offer a cloud-based HRMS that’s bound to check most boxes in any HR manager’s requirement list. However, their free plan has a 5-user cap and includes only the basic HR functions such as: 

  • Time Off Management: This is where the one HR admin can set up time off policies, manage requests, offer compensatory time off, keep track of each employee’s holidays, and automate certain tasks. 
  • Employee Files: Coupled with the Employee Database, this basic document management tool allows the HR admin to store and organize all the relevant files for each employee. 

Also included in the free plan are: 

  • E-signature app integrations
  • Reports
  • Webhooks
  • Mobile Apps for iOS & Android

Some of the companies that use Zoho people are ZPE Systems, Cloudfronts Technologies, and Foresight CFO.

Worth Checking Out:

Learn more about 
Zoho

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Last advice for choosing your free HR platform

If you’ve made it this far, then it’s likely that you already have a couple of options in mind but aren’t quite sure which free software to settle on yet. The best advice we can offer here is to set up an account with them and try the tool for yourself. You really can’t tell if some of the features and user experience will work exactly as you’d like them to until you start using them. 

Fortunately, these are all free and take minutes to set up, so don’t feel bad or awkward about creating an account with several vendors, even talking to some of their sales representatives, and then sticking to one choice. In the end, this decision will probably shape a good part of every day of the following years for your HR department, so it shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

Lastly, remember to check with each of your internal stakeholders, making sure that their questions are addressed as well, and even demoing the product with them. The decision will be much wiser if it's enriched by the input of the whole team.

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