Whether it’s a free car or a free side of french fries, we always wonder: “What’s the catch?” That same skepticism should be applied to the many free HR software systems available on the market today.
We get why these products are an attractive prospect, especially for small businesses. Who wouldn’t want human resources software that doesn’t cost a penny?
Free HR software systems have significant issues and limitations rolled up into that attractive price tag. If small businesses don’t carefully consider these issues when comparing options, they’ll end up having to upgrade to a paid version of their system or replace it entirely within 1-2 years.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at 5 popular free HR software systems and answer the all-important question: What’s the catch?
Task management in Bitrix24
Bitrix24 is a cloud-based collaboration suite with more than 35 separate tools for small businesses in the areas of HR, project management, business telephony, and customer relationship management.
The HR offering is fairly robust for a free platform. Functionality includes an employee directory and company org chart, document management, and an intranet to support collaboration, to name a few. Bitrix24 even boasts employee engagement software features like appreciation badges and pulse surveys to help companies boost employee participation.
And recently, Bitrix24 removed the 12-user max for their free version in an effort to make their tools more accessible to companies struggling to transition to remote offices due to COVID-19.
What’s the catch?
While the free version of Bitrix24 now supports unlimited users, it’s still only able to provide 5 gigabytes of online storage—which you could outgrow quickly, or may have outgrown already.
Also, if you were hoping to access the CRM or sales analytics, those features aren’t included in the free plan. Lastly, the free plan only includes basic customer support, which could be a significant headache if you run into problems.
Desktop team calendar in Fluida
Fluida is an Italian company offering a cloud-based platform that focuses on attendance and leave management. It includes tools to help better track and simplify timesheets, expense reports, leave requests, and PTO reporting. Users have access to a centralized team calendar to make changes and updates to absences, overtime, and schedules in real time.
What’s the catch?
Fluida’s free HR software plan offers access to a company directory, time and attendance features, and email support for up to 10 users. If your company already has more than 10 employees, or grows to have more than 10 employees, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version.
Candidate lists in Freshteam
Freshteam is a cloud-based HR and applicant tracking system offered by Freshworks designed to help recruiters find, screen, interview, and hire qualified candidates for various roles. Recruiters can check availability for interviews, schedule candidate notifications, send feedback and reminders to interview panelists, and access templates to generate offers. It also includes candidate engagement and collaboration tools.
In addition to application management features, Freshteam also offers a few absence management tools for existing employees.
What’s the catch?
Freshteam’s free HR software is much more limited than any of their paid versions. For example, the free plan is only able to support three job postings at a time, where the next step up offers 10, and the other tiers offer unlimited postings. Additionally, free version users cannot customize their career site at all, so adding things like your company logo aren’t an option here.
Timesheet in Homebase
Homebase is a cloud-based time tracking and scheduling platform that helps HR teams better organize and manage employee schedules, timesheets, and payroll. Using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface, users can easily build and change employee schedules, and those schedules can then be sent to employees via text message or email.
Homebase also offers fairly robust analytics tools. HR management users can view employee hours and overtime to gain insight into labor costs, and the platform includes automatic error reporting and other data exporting capabilities.
What’s the catch?
Homebase’s free HR version includes a lot of features that others usually charge for, like their mobile app and scheduling beyond 10 days; however, certain features remain out of reach for users of the free version. Notably, team communication and performance management modules are reserved for their first-tier paid plan, and users won’t unlock other features like document storage unless they’re paying for the “all-in-one” plan at $70 a month.
Job boards in HRLocker
HRLocker is a cloud-based human resource management system offering a robust feature set, including modules for timesheets, absence management, onboarding and training development, employee data, remote and hybrid work, performance reviews, and recruiting.
HRLocker is based in the U.K. but offers HR management software to companies all over the world.
What’s the catch?
HRLocker’s free plan is geared towards startups and micro enterprises. It’s only able to support up to 4 employees, which is a very small team, so once again HR professionals will be looking at a paid upgrade relatively quickly with any growth. On top of that, HRLocker’s free version does not include any support, so users will be on their own when it comes to solving issues with the software.
Free Isn’t Always Free
It’s clear looking at just these 5 options that free doesn’t always mean free. And when it does, you get what you pay for—next to nothing. Here’s a recap of some of the common constraints with free HR software that small businesses should be aware of when comparing options:
- Restrictions on the number of employees or users. If you’re not hiring for the foreseeable future, this may not be a deal-breaker. But if you’re growing quickly, you may reach these limits sooner rather than later, meaning you’ll have to upgrade or find a new solution.
- Limits on functionality. Most free systems are either pretty limited from the get-go, or hamper robust functions with significant shackles (e.g., no ability to customize fields or track changes). That could lead to user frustration or requiring purchase of another system to make up for the setbacks.
- No customer support or updates. With some free systems, you’re truly on your own. If you run into problems, you could spend days trying to find a fix. Meanwhile, while paid customers get important security updates, you may be left leaving sensitive employee information vulnerable.
It may hurt the budget initially, but in almost all instances paid HR software is a better option to get access to robust functionality that your company won’t outgrow quickly. To discover affordable systems that fit your needs, head to our HR software page.
You can also reach out to our team of HR software advisors by scheduling a call or starting a chat. We’ll connect you with an experienced advisor who will take your budget, functionality needs, company size, and more into consideration to give you a shortlist of recommended products. Oh, and we’ll do it for free—no catch on this one.
This article was updated on April 16, 2021. In order for products to qualify for this report, they had to meet three criteria:
- Products must offer a free, stand-alone version of the software that is not a trial version with which users are obligated to purchase a product after a period of time.
- Products must meet our HR software definition, which is: Human resource (HR) software acts as the system of record for employee data. A product was classified as HR software if it contained these three core features—employee profile, employee database, and reporting.
- Products must have a minimum of 10 user-submitted reviews published between March 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021, and the minimum overall rating from reviewers must be at least 4 out of 5 stars at the time of publication.