Professional Employment Organization (PEO)

What is a Professional Employment Organization (PEO) ?


A Professional Employment Organization (PEO) serves as a comprehensive HR outsourcing partner for businesses. It enters into a co-employment arrangement with companies, sharing certain employer responsibilities.

In this relationship, the PEO typically takes over administrative HR tasks, while the client company retains control over the daily management of employees and core business operations.

Services Provided by PEOs

  • Payroll and Tax Administration: Managing payroll processing, including tax withholdings and filings.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring adherence to local, state, and federal employment laws and regulations.
  • Recruitment and Onboarding Support: Assisting in hiring processes, from recruitment to onboarding new employees.
  • Benefits Administration: Offering and managing employee benefits, including health insurance and retirement plans.
  • Workers' Compensation: Handling workers' compensation coverage and claims.
  • Employee Policy Development: Assisting in the creation of employee handbooks and policy templates.
  • Training and Development: Providing resources for employee training and professional development.

How PEOs Operate?

  • Target Clients: Primarily serving small to medium-sized businesses in various industries.
  • Co-Employment Agreement: The PEO and the client company sign an agreement that specifies the shared responsibilities, with the PEO often assuming more of the administrative and compliance burdens.
  • Control and Management: The client company maintains authority over its business operations, employee roles, and performance management.

Pricing and Cost Structure

  • Fees: PEOs charge for their services either through a fixed per-employee fee or a percentage of the overall payroll.
  • Cost Efficiency: While there is an upfront cost, partnering with a PEO can lead to long-term savings by reducing the need for an extensive in-house HR department.
  • Interaction with Internal HR Teams
  • Collaborative Relationship: A PEO complements rather than replaces an internal HR department, enabling the internal team to focus on strategic HR functions and business-specific needs.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a PEO


  • HR Burden Reduction: Alleviates the workload of managing routine and complex HR tasks.
  • Comprehensive Compliance: Offers robust support in navigating and adhering to extensive HR laws and regulations.
  • Enhanced HR Capabilities: Strengthens the overall HR function, particularly beneficial for small businesses without large HR departments.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Potentially reduces long-term operational costs associated with HR management.


  • Limited Global Scope: PEOs are more suited for domestic operations and may not support international business expansion.
  • Shared Legal Responsibility: While providing some legal cover, PEOs do not entirely absolve the client company of all HR-related legal responsibilities.
  • Contractual Limitations: May not offer complete flexibility in terms of contract customization or international employment agreements.

Industry Accreditation

Standardization and Accreditation: In the U.S., PEOs are often accredited by organizations like the IRS and ESAC and are members of NAPEO, which set standards for professionalism and compliance.

PEO vs. Employer Of Record (EOR)

Key Differences

  • Scope of Responsibility: Unlike a PEO, an EOR becomes the full legal employer of the staff they hire on behalf of a client company. This includes comprehensive handling of legal and compliance issues.
  • International Employment: EORs are typically more equipped to manage international employment, handling global payroll, HR tasks, and compliance in various countries.

Choosing Between a PEO and an EOR

  • Business Needs Assessment: The decision to choose a PEO or an EOR should be based on the company’s specific needs. A PEO is ideal for domestic HR support, while an EOR is better suited for companies looking to expand and hire globally.
  • Strategic HR Management: For businesses requiring both domestic HR support and international expansion capabilities, a combined approach using both PEO and EOR services may be optimal.