The 7 Best Small-Business Payroll Programs in Canada 2021

We examined Canada’s most popular payroll companies and weighed their pricing, payroll features, and ease of use to bring you the year’s seven best small-business payroll programs.
Best overall
Ceridian logo
Ceridian
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Contact for quote
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Automatic tax filing
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Employee self-service
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Mobile payroll app
Best HR add-ons
ADP
ADP
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Contact for quote
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Automatic tax filing
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Employee self-service
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Mobile payroll app
Best for basics
Wagepoint
Wagepoint
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
  • Icon Yes  Light
    $12.00/wk. + $2.00/employee
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Automatic tax filing
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Employee self-service
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    No mobile payroll app
Best reporting
Payworks logo
Payworks
3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7
  • Icon Yes  Light
    Visit site for quote
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Automatic tax filing
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Employee self-service
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    No mobile payroll app
Most affordable
Wave Payroll logo
Wave Payroll
3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6
  • Icon Yes  Light
    $20.00/mo. + $6.00/payee
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Automatic tax filing
  • Icon Pros  Dark
    Employee self-service
  • Icon Cons  Dark
    No mobile payroll app

Data as of 4/2/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

The bottom line: Our top payroll program for Canada in 2021 is Ceridian, specifically Ceridian Dayforce. Its powerful human capital management (HCM) software can handle every aspect of your business’s human resource activities, from payroll to talent management.

But Ceridian is just one of the many options Canadian companies can choose from when it comes to payroll software. Learn more about all seven of our top picks.

Canada's best payroll software for small businesses

Compare the best payroll companies in Canada in 2021

Brand
Starting base price
Additional price per user
Employer-facing payroll app
Learn more
Ceridian logo

Ceridian

Contact for quoteContact for quote
Icon Yes  DarkYes
ADP

ADP

Contact for quoteContact for quote
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Wagepoint

Wagepoint

$12.00/weekly payroll run or $22.00/bi-weekly payroll run$2.00/additional employee paid/mo.
Icon Yes  DarkYes
Payworks logo

Payworks

Visit site for quoteVisit site for quote
Icon No  DarkNo
Wave Payroll logo

Wave

$20.00/mo.$6.00/payee/mo.
Icon No  DarkNo

Data as of 4/2/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Not sure what to look for in a payroll company? At the bare minimum, payroll companies should provide these key services:

  • Calculating and deducting payroll taxes from employee paychecks
  • Remitting taxes to the federal and provincial or territorial governments
  • Paying employees (usually via direct deposit or cheque)
  • Creating year-end T4s/Relevés
  • Generating records and financial statements, including year-end tax documentation
  • Syncing payroll data with your accounting software

Some companies also offer HR benefits, time clocks, and employee self-service portals or apps. Make sure to consider your business’s unique needs while searching for a provider. For instance, if payroll on the go is crucial to your business, you’ll definitely want a payroll provider with an employer-facing app.

Want to learn more about payroll before searching for a provider? Check out these resources:

Best overall: Ceridian

Ceridian logo
Ceridian
4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2
  • Starting price: Contact for quote
  • Check
    Automatic tax calculation, withholding, and filing
  • Check
    Extensive HR tools
  • Check
    Time and attendance tracking

If you want a payroll plan that handles just about every aspect of human resources, we recommend Ceridian Dayforce. Why? Because Ceridian offers much more than just payroll deductions and payroll tax remittance. This total HCM solution covers payroll, benefits, workforce management, and most other HR-related tasks. Ceridian payroll services are also packed with unique features that many providers neglect, including the following:

  • Multi-jurisdictional tax calculation, withholding, and filing
  • Real-time payroll register (no need to wait until the end of the pay period to make revisions)
  • Talent management, including recruiting and onboarding
  • Workforce management, including a labour management system

Not quite big enough for an enterprise-level payroll solution? Ceridian Powerpay offers HR and payroll software for companies with fewer than 100 employees.

Per the customer review site Trustradius, most Ceridian payroll services customers are satisfied with their product. They do, however, wish for better customer service, more customized reporting features, and better employee time tracking.1

Pros
Pro Bullet Extensive employee self-service features
Pro Bullet Thorough HR solutions
Pro Bullet Highly rated mobile app
Cons
Con Bullet Software learning curve required
Con Bullet Middling customer service reputation

Best HR add-ons: ADP Workforce Now

ADP
ADP
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
  • Starting price: Contact for quote
  • Check
    Extensive HR add-ons
  • Check
    Time and attendance tracking
  • Check
    Employee- and employer-facing mobile apps

ADP’s most popular software, ADP Workforce Now, is an HR-rich payroll program for Canadian small businesses. Its built-in time and attendance tracking simplifies paying hourly employees. Unlike many other payroll options, ADP Workforce Now includes an employer-facing mobile payroll app so small-business owners can run payroll on the go. Its business and HR bundles include access to key HR forms and new hire paperwork. Pricier bundles include additional HR compliance assistance plus help creating employee handbooks.

Bear in mind, though, that ADP’s fully featured plans are geared towards larger companies. Small businesses with one or two employees likely won’t need the company’s heftier payroll and HR packages (which are also more expensive than basic payroll software). ADP also has a shaky customer service reputation. Per the consumer review site Trustpilot, glitchy software and dropped customer service calls have been a problem this tax season.2

Pros
Pro Bullet Multiple plans for scalability
Pro Bullet Outstanding app for on-the-go payroll
Pro Bullet Employee self-service options
Cons
Con Bullet Software learning curve required
Con Bullet Poor customer service reputation

Best for basics: Wagepoint

Wagepoint
Wagepoint
3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9
  • Starting price: $12.00 for weekly payroll + $2.00 per additional employee paid
  • Check
    Straightforward pricing
  • Check
    Automatic payroll runs
  • Check
    Thorough employee self-service portal

Data as of 4/2/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Don’t need ADP or Ceridian’s large-scale HR solutions? Wagepoint’s payroll software offers straightforward automatic payroll processing and little else—which is good news for Canadian small businesses with few employees. If you have hourly employees, Wagepoint integrates easily with popular time-tracking software like TSheets, Deputy, and 7Shifts. Or, if you pay your salaried employees the same amount at regular intervals, you can set Wagepoint to pay them automatically without having to lift a finger.

Wagepoint’s pricing structure is based on how often you pay your employees and how many employees you have. For instance, paying one employee weekly costs $12 per payroll run. Each additional employee paid costs an extra two dollars per run. Paying one employee bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly costs $22 per payroll run (plus $2 per additional employee).

However, Wagepoint isn’t a good choice if you need on-the-go payroll. While the small-business payroll program has a (poorly reviewed) time-tracking app for employees, it still lacks a mobile payroll app. And, like we said, it’s not suited to small businesses that want an all-in-one payroll and HR company.

Pros
Pro Bullet Affordable full-service payroll
Pro Bullet Good customer service reputation
Pro Bullet User-friendly software with low learning curve
Cons
Con Bullet No mobile app
Con Bullet No built-in HR features

Best reporting: Payworks

Payworks logo
Payworks
3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7
  • Starting price: Visit site for quote
  • Check
    Customized reports
  • Check
    Customizable dashboards
  • Check
    Franchise-specific payroll software

Want to gain key insights into payroll and workforce management? Payworks Canada generates dozens of reports, most of which are fully customizable. Users can display information from those reports on customizable, shareable dashboards to collaborate with business stakeholders on financial growth.

Payworks also offers franchisee-specific payroll solutions. In fact, it has an entire customer service department dedicated to helping franchise owners. Additionally, Payworks offers human resource, time management, and workforce management solutions—though each solution costs an additional monthly fee (albeit a small one).

Payworks charges a bit extra for services that some other payroll systems in Canada bundle into their payroll products, like employee absence management. Plus, Payworks’ detailed reports, customizable dashboards, and overall interface come with a high learning curve. The level of complexity might be too much for small-business owners who just want fast, easy payroll deductions and deposits at their fingertips.

Pros
Pro Bullet Dozens of customizable reports
Pro Bullet Franchise-specific payroll software
Pro Bullet Workforce management add-ons
Cons
Con Bullet Additional cost for absence management
Con Bullet Comparatively high learning curve

Most affordable: Wave Payroll

Wave Payroll logo
Wave Payroll
3.6 out of 5 stars
3.6
  • Starting price: $20.00/mo. + $6.00/payee
  • Check
    Affordable payroll solution
  • Check
    Employee self-service portal
  • Check
    Easy integration with Wave Accounting (free accounting software)

Data as of 4/2/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Starting at $20 a month (plus $6 per payee), Wave Payroll is cheaper than any other option on our list. Along with automatic payroll tax calculations and filing, that low price gets you several tax reports, an employee self-service portal, automatic ROE (record of employment) form submission, and T4/T4A tax forms. Wave doesn’t offer benefits add-ons, but it does include benefits and workers compensation top-up calculations.

Wave’s best (and most cost-effective) feature, though, is its integration with Wave’s free accounting software. In fact, Wave Payroll and Wave Accounting together cost about the same as QuickBooks Online’s cheapest small-business accounting-only plan. If you’re looking to save on overall business expenses, Wave Payroll is a good place to start.

Unfortunately, Wave Payroll isn’t available in Quebec. Additionally, its software is pretty bare bones compared to most of the providers on our list. For instance, Wave Payroll doesn’t have an autopilot option, mobile app, or HR and benefits add-ons. Finally, its accounting software works best for small businesses with just a few employees. Unless that describes your business, you won’t benefit much from Wave’s biggest perk: its accounting software integration.

Pros
Pro Bullet Low starting price
Pro Bullet Good reporting features
Pro Bullet Wave Accounting integration
Cons
Con Bullet Unavailable in Quebec
Con Bullet Limited payroll features
Find Your Money—and Keep More of It

With plans starting at $15 a month, FreshBooks is well-suited for freelancers, solopreneurs, and small-business owners alike.

  • Track time and expenses
  • Create custom invoices
  • Accept online payments

Runner-ups

If you still haven’t found the perfect payroll provider for you, don’t worry: there are plenty more payroll providers in Canada, including our two honorable mentions:

Honorable mentions: Best Canadian payroll software

Brand
Starting base price
Additional employee fee
Mobile payroll app
Learn more

Rise

Contact for quoteContact for quote
Icon No  DarkNo

Knit

$39.00/mo.$6.00/payee/mo.
Icon No  DarkNo

Data as of 4/2/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Honorable mention: Rise

Rise
  • Starting price: Contact for quote
  • Check
    HR + benefits + payroll
  • Check
    Built-in time tracking
  • Check
    Free payroll option for companies with fewer than 20 employees

If you want HR help but don’t need a payroll package as hefty as ADP’s or Ceridian’s, Rise could be a good fit. As an all-in-one HR, benefits, and payroll solution, Rise connects managers and employees across departments and automatically syncs benefits with payroll calculations. And if you need even less, Rise Lite is a free, payroll-only option for companies with fewer than 20 employees. Along with calculating payroll taxes, Rise Lite automates T4s, ROEs, and CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) remittances. (Note that Rise Lite isn’t available in Quebec.)

For now, though, Rise doesn’t seem to integrate with QuickBooks Online or Xero. And while Rise has a mobile app, it’s mostly employee facing (though managers can use it to approve time off requests). If you want to run payroll on the go, we recommend ADP or Ceridian instead.

Honorable mention: Knit

Knit
  • Starting price: $39.00/mo. + $6.00/payee/mo.
  • Check
    Unlimited payroll runs
  • Check
    Automatic payroll runs for salaried employees
  • Check
    Customizable employee self-service portals

Data as of 4/2/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

Knit has a refreshingly straightforward pricing structure. Its three scalable plans—Lite, Complete, and Concierge—offer differing levels of payroll and HR features. Unlike Wagepoint, Knit charges you per month and per user, not per payroll run, which means running payroll multiple times per month without paying extra. And unlike Rise, Knit integrates with both QuickBooks Online and Xero.

However, Knit doesn’t have many online reviews—which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad payroll provider. But it does mean we don’t have as much information about who the software works for or what problems customers encounter. (If you end up choosing Knit, we recommend leaving a review on a site like Capterra to help your fellow users.)

The takeaway

Accurate, compliant payroll is important—not just to your bottom line, but to your employees’ happiness and job satisfaction too.

While Ceridian Dayforce is our favorite payroll solution for Canadian businesses, it might not fit your business’s needs—and that’s perfectly fine. Instead, you can try ADP, the best payroll company for extensive HR add-ons. Or try Wagepoint for an online payroll focus without much HR, Payforce for stellar reporting, or Wave Payroll for low-cost tax filing.

Want great accounting software that syncs with your payroll service? Look at our list of the year’s best accounting software for small businesses.

Related content

Methodology

To rank the best payroll services for Canadian small businesses, we considered four key factors, weighting each one equally:

  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Customer service
  • Payroll features

Disclaimer

At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.

Sources
1. Trustradius, “Ceridian Dayforce Reviews.” Accessed April 6, 2021.
2. Trustpilot, “ADP.” Accessed March 31, 2021.

Best small-business payroll service for Canada FAQ

What is the best payroll software for Canada's small businesses?

Ceridian Dayforce is a totally comprehensive payroll and HR program for small businesses in Canada. Along with automatic paycheque calculations and payroll tax remittances, its human capital management system includes recruiting, onboarding, and labour management.

But Ceridian isn’t the only online payroll solution, and just because it’s one of the best payroll companies doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. If you’re looking for affordable, streamlined payroll, Wave Payroll ($26 a month) or Rise Lite (free for under 20 employees) could be the best payroll software solution for you. Or if you want an excellent mobile payroll app, ADP Workforce Now might be your best option.

No matter which payroll company you decide is best for you, we recommend signing up for free demos or (when possible) taking advantage of free trials. Payroll takes quite a lot of time and money—choosing the best software can save you hassle and stress in the long run.

Is ADP a good payroll company?

ADP is a comprehensive HR and payroll company with solid plans and features. It’s ideal for midsize to enterprise-level businesses with hefty HR needs. It’s also one of the few payroll companies with an employer-facing mobile app, which means it’s a good choice for on-the-go employers who need anytime, anywhere access to payroll data.

Kylie McQuarrie
Written by
Kylie McQuarrie
Kylie McQuarrie has been writing for and about small businesses since 2014. Prior to writing full-time, she worked with a variety of small-business owners (from freelance writers to real-estate solopreneurs), which gave her a front-row look at small-business owners' struggles, frustrations, and successes. Currently, she’s Business.org’s accounting and payroll staff writer. Her work has been featured on SCORE.org, G2, and Fairygodboss, among others.
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