Honest Review
Breathe HR

Intuitive, cost-effective but time-consuming for leave management

Written by Asim Qureshi

As the CEO of a time-tracking software company, I need to know what my competitors are up to. That means my team and I are often researching about and/or playing around with their products, you know, it’s part of the job. Here, I share my findings from that research, giving credit to those competitors where credit is due and being honest about which products I believe you really need to avoid. And so, there you have it, this review, and in it, I try to be honest, fair, and insightful. I hope it helps you make the right decision…

This review covers


Breathe HR is an employee management platform tailored to SMEs. First developed in 2012, the software is now part of the leading cloud-based solutions provider ELMO, which also offers other popular business solutions like ELMO software, Pivot, HROnboard, PeoplePulse, Webexpenses, and Vocam. 

Secure employee databases, leave management, performance appraisals, employee training, expense management, rota scheduling, time and attendance tracking and detailed reporting features make Breathe HR a breath of fresh air for SMEs (no pun intended!). Businesses can also simplify their recruitment process with Breathe HR’s applicant tracking system. Breathe HR can also help managers navigate the hiring process with zero paperwork by posting available vacancies on their company site and collecting recruit information with in-built application forms. 

The software has a solid employee appraisal system too. A little goes a long way, and employee appraisals done right can be valuable for your business’s productivity and success in the long run. Managers can schedule specific times and locations for employee appraisals. Further, the kudos system is brilliant for sharing messages of encouragement with well-performing team members.

However, every software has its drawbacks and Breathe HR is no exception. It’s great for SMEs but its functionality can fall short for larger organizations — Breathe HR is designed specifically for businesses in the UK and for up to 250 employees. Using Breathe HR to schedule or record holidays for part-timers can be a hassle. And users have reported that editing employee leave schedules can be a time-consuming process too.

What do users like about Breathe HR?

  • Learn module for employee training and development
  • Simple interface
  • Compatible with multiple currencies
  • Integration with Xero
  • Applicant tracking system for hiring employees
  • Unlimited document storage

What don’t users like about Breathe HR?

  • Time-consuming to input employee leave
  • Limited features for larger businesses
  • No automated notifications of staff absences for non-HR software users
  • Does not automatically round off working hours

What Pricing Plans does Breathe HR offer?

Breathe HR’s pricing plan is based on the size of an organization. All features offered are available for a trial period of 14 days. For organizations larger than 250 employees, Breathe HR offers custom pricing plans. 

The Core HR module, starting at £13 per business/ per month, includes holiday planning, employee database, document storage, payroll export reporting, performance management, and absence tracking.  

There are four additional modules that can only be purchased as add-ons with the Core HR module:

1. Rota, Time, and Attendance

This module provides cloud-based employee scheduling, rota templates, time tracking, event planning, in-app and email notifications, and project budgeting. 

The module is available for an additional cost, ranging from £6 per month for 1 to 10 employees to £125 per month for organizations with 151-200 employees.

2. Learn

This module includes extensive training courses to help employees build interpersonal skills. These courses include the latest information related to information security, GDPR compliance, and workplace legislation. 

However, you should know that the training offered by the Learn module is not certified. The goal of the training is to equip your employees with skills necessary for their role in the company, not collecting certifications.

The module is available for an additional price, ranging from £6 per month for 1 to 10 employees to £125 per month for organizations with 151-200 employees.

3. Expense Management

The expense management module includes claim tracking and approval, mileage calculations, and automated reports to record expenses. Employees can effortlessly upload receipts through the mobile portal for company expense records. This module stands at £5 per month/per business.

Managing business expenses with Breathe HR

4. Recruitment Tracking

Breathe HR’s recruitment tracking module is handy for keeping track of applicants during the hiring process. Managers can use built-in application forms to gather applicant details including portfolios and cover letters, eliminating the need for tedious paperwork. 

Once you’ve selected an applicant for your team, you can add them on board by changing their status from applicant to employee. In addition to hiring an applicant, the software also lets managers save a promising candidate’s details for future roles. 

This module can be purchased at an additional cost of £5 per month/per business for 2 vacancies and £20 per month/per business for unlimited vacancies. 

Recruitment tracking with Breathe HR

What are the Standout Features of Breathe HR?

1. Employee Performance Management

Breathe HR’s people management software can be used to keep track of employee performance and hand out appraisals where due. The software can automatically arrange times and locations for appraisals.

Using Breathe HR for timely employee appraisals can help achieve transparency of company goals and set clear objectives for employees to help them play their part in the team. For this purpose, Breathe has a kudos system as well. It’s a great way for employees to send messages of encouragement and appreciation to buck up a fellow team member. 

The software can also be used to help employees navigate their professional growth with scheduled training programs with the Learn module.  

2. Employee Leave and Absence Management

Breathe HR provides an accurate record of employee absences to help admins identify patterns of employee absenteeism. With the attendance data, managers can make Bradford Factor calculations — estimates of unplanned absences in a year — to take proactive measures to ensure that employee absenteeism does not affect the business’s profitability in the long run. 

Breathe HR makes it easy for employees to request time off with the software’s online holiday booking system. I like that employees can also submit time off requests with the software’s mobile app which can be approved on the go by managers.

3. Time tracking

Using Breathe HR’s Timeclock tool, employees can clock in and out with a shared kiosk, desktop, or Breathe HR’s People Portal app. Timesheet reports can be created daily, weekly, biweekly, or monthly and the software’s timesheets display employee location and daily expenses as well.

For increased accuracy, managers can indicate specific time windows for an employee to clock in for their shift and create policies for late clock-ins to counter tardiness. With the clock in and out data, Breathe HR prepares payroll-ready timesheets that can be approved individually or in bulk and seamlessly exported to Xero.

4. Shift and Rota Management

Breathe HR’s rota and shift management software lets admins create employee schedules within minutes. Employee availability can be checked at a glance for assigning shifts. Managers can reallocate and exchange employee shifts with a drag-and-drop functionality — which is nifty. Recurring employee shifts can be easily duplicated as well.

The software is also quick to alert admins of overlapping shifts. Moreover, events or projects important for the company can be marked on employee schedules. 

Breathe offers rota templates, but you can also create custom layouts perfect for your organization’s needs for future use.

Employee rota management with Breathe HR

5. HR Reporting and Analytics

Breathe HR’s reporting and analytics feature interprets employee data to make data-driven decisions for the organization. The reports provide valuable insights into employee attendance trends, budgeting, and expense metrics and allow admins to effectively take care of problems before they arise. 

Reports can be analyzed with custom filters too, which help you drill down to the matters that require your attention. The software also lets managers export reports to Excel for further analysis and customization. 

Breathe HR's reporting dashboard

6. Integration with Xero

For managing employee payroll, Breathe HR is seamlessly integrated with Xero, a leading employee payroll software. Any changes in employee data made in Breathe will be automatically synced with Xero, eliminating redundant tasks for admins to keep employee data up-to-date. 

After payroll is processed, payslips can be shared with employees for record keeping.

Selected Positive User Feedback

  • Breathe has been a great addition to our business after going from Google Sheets to implementing the new system. It is really easy to use and user friendly from all user levels and has an additional bonus of offering a learn module which is amazing for a company like ours where we are building up our training to employees. – Jess M (Source G2)
  • Being able to manage sickness and holidays for part-time staff. I love the fact that it works it all out for me and I don’t have to spend hours with spreadsheets. When I’ve contacted support they’ve been really quick to respond and helpful in solving my issue. –  Tamsin G. (Source G2)
  • Being able to upload the company documents, policies and procedures has been amazing! Our team can read this and I am able to evidence that they have been read. It’s a cost-effective, time-effective measure to use. – Verified User in Computer Games (Source: G2)
  • All the support you need to get started is provided. The tutorials are easy to follow. Clear layout and is very user-friendly. Very good pricing for the different modules. – Michael P. (Source: G2)
  • For a small monthly payment, I now have the perfect system for my needs. I have been very impressed with the product and the technical support. – Sam Francis (Source: GetApp)
  • Its UI is easy to use and the feature set is constantly expanding. Their support team is fabulous and answers our minimal questions very fast and with ease. – Alison G (Source: GetApp)
  • It has the option to track our goals and maintain our qualification, training, and learning which help us to keep our records up to date. In addition, it has an easy process to apply for leave and then tracking them and getting approvals. – Shahul H (Source: GetApp)
  • Without a doubt, the best part about BreatheHR is its simplicity. For the user, the web interface is clear with all features signposted in the expected places with not an ounce of bloatware in sight. (Ryan E. – Capterra)
  • VERY user-friendly, easy to set up, good for employees to use and navigation is obvious. It can cope with multiple currencies which is a benefit for more global organizations. (Fiona M. – Capterra)
  • Easy to use, fully functional. Our users love being able to submit their requests at any time from any device. BreatheHR Support is amazing! Here is to a lot less admin in 2019 and beyond. (Tracy K. – Capterra)
  • Good integration with third-party systems like Rota Cloud and Safety Cloud. Very good support including self-service for managers and staff. (Jeremy W – Capterra)

Selected Negative User Feedback

  • There’s no way of automating notifications to non-HR users of other staff absences. It would be great if line managers could be notified in advance and also on the day of their staff absences.– Gabi C. (Source: G2)
  • While Breathe provides a user-friendly interface and easy-to-use features, one drawback is that it takes a bit of time for users to grasp and make use of its more advanced options fully, especially if they are not used to HR software. –Verified User in Civic & Social Organization (Source: G2)
  • It doesn’t integrate with Outlook, which would be helpful for us working with the rota system. It would also be helpful if staff could allocate their shifts to other users rather than dropping and then they are unallocated. – Gemma D. (Source: G2)
  • The ability to populate holiday allowance automatically depending on the number of days worked per work and what our bank holidays are in relation to the country (Scotland) would be a huge bonus. – Adam J (Source: G2)
  • It is a basic system that works well for a small business but would become limiting for larger businesses/groups with an international presence. Thomas C (Source: G2)
  • No provision to automatically round hours worked up/down. Timesheets don’t show absence. That has to be entered separately, taking up too much time. – Verified User in Construction (Source: G2)
  • The process involved in setting up a new employee can be a little time-consuming, this would be easier if we could input all relevant information in one module. – Charlie V. (Source: Capterra)
  • Project logs – can’t change the time period you want to see data for. So it’s always the last 7 days instead of showing data for the week. – Verified User in Mental Health Care. (Source: G2)
  • The process of inputting working patterns/hours and leave entitlement can be time-consuming, including having to remove and reinput annual leave when changing an employee from hours-based to day-based leave entitlement. – Lucy C (Source: G2)
  • Would be good if it took into account working patterns and statutory holidays for part-timers, would make it more streamlined and a little less fiddly. – Verified User in Non-Profit Organization Management (Source: G2)
  • Having to make a note of holiday booked and then doing a data purge to change people over to days/hours for holiday. – Verified User in Human Resources (Source: G2)

What are Breathe HR’s Review Ratings from Review Sites?

(As of September 7th, 2023)

  • GetApp: 4.5/5
  • Capterra: 4.5/5
  • G2: 4.4 / 5
  • Trustpilot: 3.9/5

What’s my Final Verdict on Breathe HR?

Breathe HR is a simple HR solution for SMEs looking to streamline their employee management. The software has an intuitive design — the dashboard is really easy to navigate for users who might not be tech-savvy.

Breathe HR is great for helping admins cut down time spent on everyday administrative tasks such as employee database management, staff holiday tracking, expense and budget management, and employee scheduling. The drag-and-drop functionality is fantastic for rescheduling employee shifts in a jiffy. Moreover, the software’s integration with Xero automates employee payroll, with calculations for pensions, tax, and PTO.

Listen, if you have a small business that needs an automated and cost-effective HR solution to handle employee management without a sweat, then Breathe HR is a good option to consider. However, before making your final decision, consider that the software has a time-consuming process to edit data for employee PTO and does not accommodate part-time employees all that well.