Honest Review (2024)
Breathe HR

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

Written by Asim Qureshi

As a CEO of a time tracking software company, I need to know what my competitors are up to. That means I’m often researching about and/or playing around with their products, like Breathe HR — 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 Breathe HR review. And in it, I try to be honest, fair, and insightful.

This review covers


Breathe HR is an employee management platform tailored for 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, pun fully intended. Businesses can also simplify their recruitment process with Breathe HR’s applicant tracking system, and it also helps managers navigate the hiring process with zero paperwork by posting available vacancies on their company site and collecting recruit information with built-in application forms. 

The software has a solid employee appraisal system as well — 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, and 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 also be a hassle, and users have reported that editing employee leave schedules can be a time-consuming process as well.

Now, before we make any judgments, it’s only fair that we should take a closer look at what else the software has to offer. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into this Breathe HR review!

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. It offers three plans, namely:

Core HR: Starting at £18 per business per month or £179 per business annually, this plan includes holiday planning, employee database, document storage, payroll export reporting, performance management, and absence tracking. 

Rota, Time, and Attendance: This plan provides cloud-based employee scheduling, rota templates, time tracking, event planning, in-app and email notifications, and project budgeting. It comes at an additional cost ranging from £28 per business month to £299 per business annually.

Learn: This plan includes extensive training courses to help employees build interpersonal skills, as well as the latest information related to information security, GDPR compliance, and workplace legislation. However, it must be noted that the training offered by the Learn module is not certified — the goal of the training is to equip employees with skills necessary for their role in the company, not collecting certifications. This module is available for an additional price ranging from £28 per business per month or £299 per business annually.

Optional add-ons that enhance the usability of the plans for users’ unique business needs are also available, namely:

Expense: Available from £10 per month per business, this module for simple expense management includes claim tracking and approval, mileage calculations, and automated reports to record expenses. Employees can effortlessly upload receipts through the mobile portal for reliable recording. 

Additional HR Users: This add-on allows businesses to add three more HR users to the system for £5 per business per month.

Recruitment Pro: Available at an additional cost of  £20 per month per business for unlimited vacancies, Breathe HR’s recruitment tracking module is handy for keeping track of applicants during the hiring process. It allows managers to use built-in application forms to gather applicant details including portfolios and cover letters, eliminating the need for tedious paperwork. Once an applicant is selected for a team, they can be added on board by changing their status from applicant to employee. In addition to hiring, the software also lets managers save a promising candidate’s details for future roles.

All features offered are available for a trial period of 14 days. For organizations larger than 250 employees, Breathe HR offers custom pricing plans. 

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, and  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 which I think a great way for employees to send messages of encouragement and appreciation to boost the morale of fellow team members. 

In addition to that, 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, eliminating the need for awkward negotiations and the inefficiency paper-based traditional leave requesting systems.

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. 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 captured time 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, with employee availability visible at a glance for effective shift assignment. Managers can reallocate and exchange employee shifts with a drag-and-drop functionality which  I think is quite nifty. Recurring employee shifts can be easily duplicated as well.

The software is also quick to alert admins of overlapping shifts. In addition to that, events or projects important for the company can be marked on employee schedules so they can plan around those dates accordingly.

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

Employee rota management with Breathe HR

5. HR Reporting and Analytics

Breathe HR’s reporting and analytics feature organizes and interprets employee data into reports that help management make realistic, evidence-driven decisions for the organization. The reports provide valuable insights into employee attendance trends, budgeting, and expense metrics, and they also allow admins to effectively take care of problems as they crop up and before they become too big to solve. 

Reports can be customized with custom filters too, which help you drill down to the matters that require your attention. For further analysis and customization that can’t be achieved satisfactorily in-app, managers can also export reports to Excel.


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.

Graphic composite showing a lady looking at a mobile phone with a screenshot of the Breathe HR and Xero integration behind her

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 January 2024)

  • Capterra: 4.4/5
  • G2: 4.4 / 5
  • GetApp: 4.4/5
  • Trustpilot: 3.7/5
  • App Store: 4.7/5

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 too tech-savvy.

The software 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 Breathe HR’s integration with Xero automates employee payroll, with calculations for pensions, tax, and PTO.

So 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.