HR Planner or Breathe: Which is better for UK SMEs?

If you’ve made it here, it’s likely that you’re very close to choosing your new HR solution. And this guide is here to help you do just that.

Below, we share an unbiased comparison to help you understand whether HR Planner or Breathe is the best fit for your small business. We cover everything from features to pricing, giving you a complete rundown of everything you may be considering.

Let’s get started, shall we?

HR Planner vs. Breathe: Key takeaways

If you don’t quite have the time to look through our in-depth comparison, here are a few key takeaways to consider before you go.

HR Planner

  • Super clear pricing – You get full access to HR Planner’s breadth of features for one simple price (£2.50 per user, per month), with no hidden or expensive add-ons.
  • Easy to use – An effortless interface designed to make HR management a breeze for all users, from employees to administrators.
  • Designed for UK SMEs – HR Planner was created by an SME, for SMEs, giving you everything we know you need as a small-medium business. No more. No less.


  • Best for time and attendance tracking – If this is something you need as part of your HR software, Breathe has this functionality.
  • Limited customisation options – You’ll be limited to Breathe’s standard fields, reports, surveys and workflows.
  • Priced in brackets depending on company size – Some modules, like expenses or time and rota features, are not included in their core plan and incur additional charges.

User experience: HR Planner vs. Breathe

HR Planner

We touched a bit on this in our key takeaways above, but HR Planner was designed with UK SMEs in mind. We’re an SME ourselves and, as part of the Index eBusiness family, have been operating in the HR and software space for over 20 years.

One of the key things we can take away from our experience is that no two businesses are the same, so why should your HR software be? HR Planner is essentially customisable from the ground up, allowing you to tailor your experience on both an organisational and individual level. This is achieved through:

  • Custom dashboards (with easy to understand widgets)
  • Unlimited custom fields
  • Unlimited custom leave types
  • Custom reports
  • Custom role-based access

Additionally, the platform has been designed with a clean and modern interface that is simple to navigate, with little to no training required – though we can provide this in full where desired!


Similarly to HR Planner, Breathe offer a bright and modern interface that breaks down all areas of the platform. When speaking with customers who have switched to us, many have shared similar thoughts: the platform looks good but is crowded and it can be difficult to get to grips with at the start.

When it comes to customising the user experience, Breathe’s offering is limited in this respect. Currently, the software doesn’t allow for much personalisation and means that you’ll be restricted to their standard options across the board – including employee information fields, HR reports, workflows and access security.

Key features: HR Planner vs. Breathe


HR Planner

HR Planner’s reports module provides a library of handy built-in reports that we know are useful for SMEs. You can also create bespoke reports that pull in any information you have in the system – including all your custom fields.


Breathe’s reports interpret data in a way that is easy for viewers to understand. The visual tools make use of bright colours and practical charts.

One thing to note is that you are limited to the software’s built-in templates, as they currently don’t have the functionality to create your own.

Custom fields

HR Planner

Within HR Planner, custom fields provide you with a flexible way to add additional data to your employee profiles. These can be used to store any relevant information that is specific to your organisation along with custom security settings controlling who can view, edit or propose changes to those fields. With 10 different field types to choose from, you can create as many custom fields as you need.


Breathe state that they have tried to provide most of the fields an HR department will require, but also give the option of adding your own in relation to your specific requirements. These are very limited as you only have 5 custom fields available – three text fields and two date fields.

Surveys / forms

HR Planner

As part of HR Planner’s scheduled releases, a new Survey & Forms module will be coming soon. This will allow users to take full control of the tool to create everything from pulse surveys to training programmes. You’ll even be able to manage onboarding and offboarding processes.


Neither surveys nor forms are currently provided by Breathe.

Rotas, time & attendance

HR Planner

Time and attendance functionality is not currently offered with HR Planner. However, we do provide rotas and a working patterns tool. Rotas allow you to assign shifts to your team members, while work schedules can be customised to different employees so that your team can see who is in on what day.


Breathe’s Rota, Time & Attendance is an add-on that you can include with their Core HR Plan. The feature allows you to manage rotas digitally, while team members can clock in and out to generate automatic timesheets where required.

It’s priced additionally on top of the Core plan, with the cost determined by how many users you have.

Expenses management

Both HR Planner and Breathe offer comparable expenses modules that allow you to submit and approve claims efficiently. To support each expense claim, photos of receipts or other documentation can be uploaded with both solutions.

One unique feature of HR Planner is that custom fields can be created for expense claims and claim items, so if an organisation has a need to record specific information against each expense, this can be done – i.e. a dropdown list of projects to choose from when submitting an expense claim.

Expenses management is included as standard with HR Planner. With Breathe, it is charged as an add-on to their Core plan – starting from £10 per month, depending on the number of users you have.

Role-based access security

HR Planner

In HR Planner, you can create an unlimited number of ‘roles’ across your organisation and set custom rules for these to determine access permissions. You’ll be able to set whether each role can:

  • View information
  • Propose edits
  • Make edits

There is also the ability to configure if these actions are able to be performed across the whole organisation, only for direct/indirect reports, or for the user alone.


Permissions in Breathe are limited to specific user types. Though some of these can be customised to a degree, you aren’t able to create new roles or user types which limits your options.

Pricing: HR Planner vs. Breathe

HR Planner

You get full access to HR Planner for one simple, transparent price: £2.50 per user, per month. For a company with 25 employees, this works out at £62.50 per month.

Set up is also included in this price.

Annual discount?

You can get a discount if paying annually, with pricing per user working out at £2.29 per month.


In comparison, Breathe’s pricing is set up a bit differently – your monthly cost will depend on the plan you choose, the number of employees you have and whether you choose to include any additional modules.

Their plans include:

  • Core HR
  • Rota, Time & Attendance (includes Core HR)
  • Learn (includes Core HR)

For the purposes of our comparison, we’ll just be looking at the Core HR plan. Prices start from £18 per month for businesses with 1-10 employees, working up to £550 per month for 201-250 employees.

For a company with 25 employees, their Core plan is charged at £78 per month (£3.12 per user). If you want to add on their expenses module, this price goes up to £98 per month (£3.92 per user).

If you wish to add additional HR users, this is also charged extra. You can add 3 further permissions for £5 per month.

Annual discount?

You can get a discount if paying annually, with pricing per user working out in the range of £2.64 per month (Core HR only). With expenses included, this works out to around £3.45 per user, per month.

So, who’s better?

Well, it’s up to you to decide! While we hope that you’ve found HR Planner to be the best fit, it will ultimately come down to which solution works for your businesses’ needs.

However, here are just a few reasons why we back ourselves:

  • We’re upfront and transparent – You’ll always know where you stand as an HR Planner user. Our pricing is clear and simple. We’re also flexible, with no long-term commitments required.
  • Everything you need, none of what you don’t – Many other HR management tools will offer too much complicated functionality for the needs of an SME. HR Planner includes all and only the essential functions that we know are applicable to you.
  • Incredible customer support – It’s been the bedrock of our growth over the years. If you have a question, you can call, email or speak to us on live chat and one of our UK-based team will be happy to help.

If you’re still unsure, why not sign up for a 14-day free trial? No credit card or commitment required. Alternatively, if you’d like to talk through your requirements with our team, give us a call on 01252 636070 or email