Having the right human resource software is critical to the success of any growing business. Acting as the system of record for all of your employee data, HR software is the digital hub you need to support talent management needs and automate important HR tasks, from time tracking and payroll, to benefits administration and employee performance reviews.
HR software isn’t cheap though, and you may not have the budget to spring top dollar for a premium solution—which is why you should look into free and open source HR software systems. Costing zero dollars, these products are more than just a free sample, and can have all the functionality you need to run your small business.
Below, we’ll look at five of the best free and open source HR software systems on the market based on real user reviews. Each of these products (arranged alphabetically) has at least 10 reviews on Capterra in the past year and a minimum user rating of 4 out of 5 stars (click here for a full explanation for how we determined this list).
- Free plan: Includes 5GB of storage and access to self-help support materials. Bitrix24’s free plan supports up to 12 users normally, but a special during the COVID-19 pandemic allows for unlimited users.
- Cost to upgrade: Upgrading starts at $19/month for two users and 10GB of storage. You also get access to live chat support during business hours.
A jack of all trades, Bitrix24 has applications designed to support a variety of business needs from customer relationship management and customer support, to videoconferencing, to document storage and project management. Within the free HR software application, you can create a company org chart, maintain every employee record, and manage a knowledge base with all of the HR process materials employees need to access.
Bitrix24 has both on-premise and cloud-based deployment options, and mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
Employee directory in Bitrix24 (Source)
- Free plan: Free for up to 10 users, Fluida’s free plan includes a company directory, time and attendance functionality, and access to email support.
- Cost to upgrade: Fluida’s first paid plan is €2 (~$2.50 USD) per user per month and gives you access to advanced reporting, the ability to export your data, and support via live chat.
Based in Italy, Fluida is a core HR solution and attendance tracking tool available to customers worldwide. Within Fluida’s free HR software, an HR manager can manage paid time off (PTO), track overtime, maintain an employee directory, and even see who’s working in the office and who’s working remote through a shared calendar. Notifications pop up when employees request time off, and attendance reports are automatically generated.
Hardware devices to monitor employee location and check-ins at the office are available for an additional cost. A cloud-based HR tool, Fluida can be accessed through a web browser on any device with internet capabilities.
User dashboard in Fluida (Source)
- Free plan: Freshteam’s free plan, which allows for up to 50 employees and 3 simultaneous job postings, supports applicant tracking, core HR management, and basic time and attendance. Email and phone support are included.
- Cost to upgrade: Costing $50/month for up to 50 users and 250 employees, Freshteam’s basic paid plan allows for more job postings, more customization, more advanced time and attendance features, and access to live chat support.
Freshteam is the human resource information system (HRIS) offering from Freshworks, and the first on our list to have applicant tracking features. Alongside the ability to maintain a separate recruiting email inbox, recruiters in Freshteam can post up to 3 job postings, create a basic career site, keep track of job applicants through their hiring pipeline, rate applicants with an interview scorecard, and maintain a roster of employee referrals.
Freshteam’s free plan also includes an org chart, an employee directory, and basic time off management features to support more general HR department needs. Cloud-based, Freshteam also has dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
Org chart in Freshteam (Source)
- Free plan: Allowing for an unlimited number of employees, Homebase’s free software solution has time tracking, employee scheduling, core HR management, and applicant tracking features. Phone, email, and live chat support are all included.
- Cost to upgrade: Paying $14/month gets you access to Homebase’s Essentials plan, which has everything in the free plan plus functionality for performance management, GPS tracking for field service workers, and automated shift scheduling.
Homebase is a time tracking and scheduling platform, first and foremost. Within Homebase’s free plan, employees can clock in and out, department heads can track breaks and overtime, and HR management can download daily time and attendance reports. A schedule builder is also included, which can be customized and auto-filled with employee PTO requests and availability for ease of use.
Beyond that, Homebase users can also manage employee information, post job openings to job boards, and track the status of job applicants. Homebase is cloud-based and has dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
Employee scheduling in Homebase (Source)
- Free plan: Intended for startups and microbusinesses, HRLocker supports up to four employees and includes core HR, onboarding/offboarding, and absence management features. Support is limited to self-help resources.
- Cost to upgrade: Upgrading HRLocker starts at $3.50 per employee per month with a minimum of 15 employees, and gives you a dedicated account manager and access to phone and email support.
Based out of the U.K., HRLocker's free offering is HR management software suitable for startups around the world. In addition to employee database, document management, and absence management features, HRLocker can generate standard reports, automate employee onboarding and offboarding processes, and highlight important employee information through an HR dashboard.
HRLocker is cloud-based, and offers dedicated mobile apps for iOS and Android devices.
Absence management in HRLocker (Source)
Check out our HR software buyers guide if you want answers to basic questions about this software category.
How to choose the right free or open source HR software for your business
Keep these things in mind when comparing different free or open source HR software options:
- Consider how fast your business is growing: Free HR systems often carry limits on the amount of data you can store or the number of employees you can have. If you’re going to outgrow these limits soon anyway, it’s probably not worth the trouble.
- Check the upgrade cost: Whether you plan to upgrade eventually, or you’re worried about getting charged the upgrade cost by accidentally going over the limits of the free plan (which does happen!), always make note of how much it will cost you to go up to the next tier.
- Prioritize the employee experience: If a product has employee self-service capabilities, make sure the system is intuitive and easy-to-use from their end. If it’s clunky or frustrating, employees won’t use it and you’ll be stuck having to process every worker’s HR requests yourself.
- Know your IT limits: If you want to customize open source software to your needs (a benefit of having access to the source code), you’ll need significant IT resources. If you lack a proper IT department, or even a single IT staff member, open source software that needs a lot of customization may not be the best option.
Common questions to ask vendors when selecting free or open source HR software
When talking to software vendors and learning more about different free and open source HR management software options, here are some key questions you should be asking:
- What kind of support do you offer? Vendors often charge extra for support or cut it out altogether with their free products, which can be a major issue when you hit a problem. Ask for details about how you can reach vendor support (phone, email, or chat?) and when.
- How easily can your product integrate with other systems? If a free HR system is only going to be one piece of your overall workforce technology stack (now or in the future), it’s important to make sure it will integrate seamlessly with other human resources software systems.
- What are my reporting options? Free systems have to cut costs somewhere, and it’s usually in reporting. If the standard reporting options that are offered aren’t enough, make sure your HR staff has the ability to create and customize your own.
- Do you have any published case studies? A case study is a great way to learn if a free product has actually delivered value to other customers. If a vendor doesn’t have a case study, or is hesitant about connecting you with other clients, it could mean their product isn’t very good.
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This article was updated on March 12, 2021. Products considered for this article had to:
- Offer a free, stand-alone version of the software (not a trial version of the software where you must purchase a product after a limited amount of time).
- Meet our HR software definition: 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 that met the market definition also needed a minimum of 10 user-submitted reviews published between March 1, 2020 – March 1, 2021, and have a minimum overall rating of 4/5 stars from reviewers on Capterra at the time of publication.
Note: The content in this piece that provides opinions and points of view expressed by users does not represent the views of Capterra.