What is a PEO? What are its advantages and disadvantages?

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professional employer organization (PEO) is an organization that enters into a joint-employment relationship with an employer by leasing employees to the employer, thereby allowing the PEO to share and manage many employee-related responsibilities and liabilities. This allows employers to outsource their human resource functions, such as employee benefits, compensation and payroll administration, workers' compensation, and employment taxes.

PEOs typically serve as a professional employer of their clients' employees. The client company reports its wages under the PEO's federal employer identification number (FEIN), and employee liability shifts to the PEO. Employers gain economies of scale by having more benefits options, sometimes at lower rates.

Depending on the PEO and the contract, a few or all of the HR functions can be outsourced. An administrative services outsourcing (ASO) agreement provides options for companies that are not interested in co-employment but want some of the outsourcing benefits.

There can be significant advantages of a PEO, especially for a small employer that may not have the breadth of HR expertise or systems capabilities for functions such as payroll and HRIS, or the time and resources available to focus on many of the transactional HR functions.

The burdens a PEO can relieve from HR include the following:

  • Benefits administration.
  • Recruiting and hiring.
  • Payroll administration.
  • Unemployment administration.
  • Workers' compensation administration.
  • Compliance assistance.
  • Drug testing programs.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act administration.

Some of the disadvantages might include the following:

  • Loss of control of essential processes and people.
  • An outside company's influence on your culture.
  • Diminished value of internal HR department.
  • Lack of control and security over employee paperwork.
  • A loss of institutional knowledge.
  • Security issues with the vendor's system.
  • Resistance from employees.


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