Article | March 14, 2024

by Horty & Horty, P.A.

Navigating the complex maze of state and federal labor laws can be burdensome for many businesses. Staying current on ever-changing employment laws, correctly classifying employees, and adhering to EEO laws, among others, can be challenging if you’re handling all these responsibilities on your own. Managing these tasks in-house can increase the risk of mistakes, hinder operational efficiency, and increase costs. 

Professional employer organizations (PEOs) offer a strategic solution to these challenges, ensuring compliance and efficiency without the high costs of internal HR management. But that doesn’t mean they are suitable for every business. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how PEOs work and provide insights into their benefits and drawbacks so you can determine if they are the right choice for your business. 

What is a PEO?

A PEO is a firm that partners with businesses to manage complex employee-related functions like payroll processing, benefits administration, HR management, and regulatory compliance. 

While a PEO takes on the responsibility of administrative and compliance tasks, it does not interfere with the company’s core operations, and business owners maintain full control over their company’s operational decisions. This arrangement allows companies to focus on their primary business functions while the PEO manages employee-related tasks and risks. 

How PEOs Work

PEOs use a co-employment model where the PEO becomes the employer of record for tax purposes, handling all HR-related functions. However, the client company retains control over their employees’ daily activities and business operations.

This model differs from other HR outsourcing services. Payroll companies, for example, focus solely on payroll and related tax obligations without the broader scope of services and legal responsibilities managed by PEOs. Many HR outsourcing services typically manage only one aspect of the functions covered by a PEO, making PEOs more all-inclusive. Additionally, other outsourced services generally do not operate under a co-employment model and do not become the employer of record. 

Services Offered by PEOs

PEOs provide an array of services, including: 

  • Human resources management,

  • Payroll processing,

  • Employee benefits administration,

  • Workers’ compensation,

  • Compliance management,

  • Tax filing,

  • Risk and safety management, and

  • Talent management

These services are not only comprehensive but also customizable. Many PEOs tailor their offerings to meet the unique needs of different businesses, from startups requiring basic HR support and payroll services to more established organizations looking for advanced benefits administration and compliance management. Some PEOs may offer other features like data analytics, which can provide valuable insights into workforce management and operational efficiency.  

Benefits of partnering with a PEO

PEOs offer strategic guidance in workforce management, reducing employer liability, and providing more than basic HR administration. 

Cost-effectiveness

By leveraging economies of scale, PEOs can reduce costs associated with employee benefits and workers’ compensation, enabling smaller businesses to offer competitive benefits packages that may otherwise only be available to large corporations. 

Enhanced employee benefits

PEOs can provide access to a wider range of employee benefits, often at a more favorable cost. This includes access to benefits like medical, dental, vision, short and long-term disability insurance, life and personal accident insurance, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and 401(k) plans, among other benefits. And PEOs also handle the administrative and compliance burdens typically associated with these programs. 

Efficiency

Outsourcing HR tasks to a PEO allows business leaders to devote more time and resources to their core operations. Administrative tasks like handling paperwork, negotiating with benefits companies, and staying current with labor laws can be time-consuming. A PEO takes over these responsibilities, enabling businesses to focus on growth and development. 

Scalability

As businesses grow, their HR needs become more complex. PEOs provide scalable solutions that evolve with the company, ensuring that HR capabilities match business needs at every stage. 

Improved compliance and risk mitigation

PEOs’ expertise in legal and regulatory matters helps businesses avoid compliance errors. Many PEOs manage workers’ compensation, liability insurance, employment handbooks, and more, reducing risk. 

Employee satisfaction and retention

Efficient HR and benefits management contributes to higher employee satisfaction and retention, fostering a stable and productive work environment. 

Challenges and Considerations

While PEOs offer significant advantages, there are several considerations to keep in mind. Businesses must be comfortable sharing some control over employee management with the PEO. Additionally, working with a PEO might introduce some constraints, as businesses are often required to adhere to the PEO’s established processes and systems. This could potentially limit flexibility in certain HR functions, but many businesses willingly sacrifice this flexibility to take advantage of the PEO’s standardized processes.  

It’s also crucial to assess the PEO’s track record in compliance and customer service. 

Choosing the right PEO

Businesses best served by PEOs typically include small to medium-sized enterprises seeking comprehensive HR services. If you think you may benefit from partnering with a PEO, there are a few things to keep in mind as you select a service provider. 

First, ensure the PEO has proper accreditation and a strong record of compliance. Likewise, review their history of reliability and customer satisfaction.

Then, be sure to select a PEO with services that align with your specific needs. If they offer services that fit your needs now, do they offer additional services you might need as you grow and scale? 

Finally, seek transparency in the PEO’s fee structure and contract terms. Understanding the cost structure is crucial, as it varies based on the services provided. Many charge a percentage of a company’s wages or payroll (often 2-12% on average), while others charge based on the number of employees, and some bill in a lump sum. 

While this article offers a brief overview of PEOs, it is not exhaustive, and every business’s needs are unique. We provide this information to empower our clients to make the most of their business endeavors. For tailored advice about managing risks in your business, please contact our office. 

Let’s Talk!

Call us at (302) 652-4194 (Wilmington Office), (302) 730-4560 (Dover Office) or fill out the form below and we’ll contact you to discuss your specific situation.





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Horty & Horty, P.A. (“Horty”) is a full-service public accounting and advisory firm providing personalized and unparalleled service to closely held businesses and owners throughout the Delaware Valley. We are trusted advisors whose service offerings and proven methodologies are designed to mitigate financial risk and help clients realize their goals and achieve success.

We are a team of forward-thinking professionals who have our client’s best interests in mind. Our level of experience is unsurpassed. For over 50 years, we have been advancing our knowledge and skill. This experience has resulted in an incomparable understanding of what our clients need, what they expect, what they deserve and how best to serve them.

For more information on how Horty & Horty, P.A. can assist you, please call us at 302.652.4194 (Wilmington Office) or at 302.730.4560 (Dover Office).