Charlie vs Breathe:

A small business and startup dilemma

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Charlie vs BreatheCharlie vs Breathe

Written by:

Angèle Chevalier

As a content marketer, part of my job includes having a look at what information is available about Charlie online and making sure it’s representative of our software. So, like you, I often turn to Google for answers.

When I typed “Charlie vs Breathe” in the search bar, I was surprised to only find dull-looking comparison tables on varied reviews websites, all looking very similar, with no tangible way of finding out what using Charlie or Breathe is really like.

Of course, you might worry about us being a bit biased, but this guide is not about proving how bad Breathe is. On the contrary, it’s just a way to understand which of Charlie or Breathe is the best fit for your small business or startup.

So if you’re still with me, read on to find out more.

How did we write CharlieHR vs Breathe – after all, why should you trust us? 

If you don’t have time for this section, simply click here to jump to our comparison.

A lot of the people I work with collect loads of testimonials from customers and non-customers alike. They often get to talk about other HR software and many questions are thrown about:

  • Why did you switch to Breathe after being with Charlie? 
  • Why did you decide to leave Breathe to become a Charlie customer? 
  • What’s lacking at Breathe? 
  • What do you think Charlie excels at? 
  • Etc.  

All in all, I went to them, knowing they had these answers, and asked the following question: where do you think Breathe outplays Charlie and where do you think Charlie outplays Breathe?

Among the people I asked were: 

  • Product managers – in charge of innovating and improving our product. They spend hours interviewing customers to understand the ins and outs of the HR software market. 
  • Customer service agents – who are in direct contact with customers, understanding their needs and frustrations. 
  • Sales representatives – responsible for selling our software whilst gathering information about our competitors to make sure potential customers get the most out of Charlie. 
  • Content writers – who have written content about competitors before, so we already have a lot of information on other HR software. Perhaps have a look at our guide on best HRIS to see what I mean.  

CharlieHR vs Breathe –
Key takeaways for multitaskers 

If you don’t have time for an in-depth Breathe and Charlie comparison, I’ve put together a few key takeaways before you click the cross at the top. 


Best Feature
  • Charlie allows you to save hours on HR every week – with core features designed for small businesses and startups including, but not limited to time off management, onboarding, data storage and integrations with your other systems
  • Charlie is very easy to use and even easier to set up – you’re in within seconds and your team doesn’t need to be trained 
  • Charlie’s pricing is clear and transparent – you pay based on your company size, starting from as little as £5 per month


Best Feature
  • Breathe is great if you’re looking to automate more than just your core HR, but you are not afraid of software that’s a bit difficult to get a grasp of 
  • Breathe is the best choice if you need shift management and rota creation to be a part of your HR software 
  • Breathe is priced in brackets depending on your company size, but the core plan doesn’t include time and rota features or training 

Why is CharlieHR a better choice than Breathe for your small business or startup? 

It might be a bit ironic to read something like this coming from Breathe’s direct competitors. After all, yes, both CharlieHR and Breathe were built to help small businesses streamline their HR.

But based on our research and our customers’ feedback, we believe Charlie does that better.

So instead of losing yourself in the myriad of comparison lists available online, we thought we’d add our pinch of salt by giving you the knowledge we have on our product and the feedback from over 11,000 small businesses and startups that use us.

To make it easier for you, here’s where we’ve narrowed down the pros of picking CharlieHR over Breathe and where you may see how Charlie can fit your needs.

Pros of using CharlieHR

Focuses on the core features a small business or startup really needs

With the number of HR software out there, it’s easy to get tempted by the shiniest software that can do everything from top to bottom, but that often misses the point. So you might be attracted to the prospect of automating everything all at once, but you’ll soon realise that this type of software doesn’t actually meet your basic needs.

At Charlie, we took a different approach. Instead of trying to solve all your HR jobs and create features just for the sake of it, we focused on what small businesses and startups really care about. 

In practice, that means we help you: 

Get rid of time-consuming manual processes and spreadsheets 

  • No handholding anymore – onboard team members through a self-service process by inviting them on the platform
  • No more documents scattered around – get all your employee data and information in one place
  • Give autonomy to your team – let team members submit their own time off requests (holidays, sick leave, customisable types, etc.) and approve or deny in one click 
  • No need to fix formulas anymore – time off allowances reset automatically and team members can cancel or amend their requests 

Remove all the back and forth between you and team members

  • Documents are not shared into emails but securely uploaded and stored by team members on your platform – including passport and P45
  • No reason for you to be the bottleneck anymore – company handbook and essential information are all in the same spot
  • Stop chasing others to complete their tasks – assign checklists with due dates

Remote teams’ best friend

In today’s world, it’s become more and more important to make it easy for teams that are either completely remote or hybrid to automate their HR processes.

At Charlie, for example, our software is an essential part of our day: we get the information we need online from the platform, whenever we need it:

  • Today’s announcement – our software homepage lets you know about important information such as new starters, days off, etc. 
  • Working locations and offices – set customisable locations depending on where people are working from whose working from where and split your workforce into different offices  
  • Slack integration – integrate with Slack to get daily notifications about important information
  • Shoutouts – keep it interactive. No need to see each other to celebrate each other’s wins. 

Super easy to use

There’s nothing more important to small businesses and startups than making sure there’s no extra work added to their already busy day. With Charlie, you get: 

  • No set up needed – once you’ve signed up, you get a 7-day trial without any credit card required and have immediate access to all of our features. If you choose to go for us, simply make a payment and that’s about it really. 
  • Very straightforward – you don’t need to learn how to use Charlie. Our platform is very intuitive and you’ll find everything in no time. If you need assistance, our customer service team is always on hand. 

Lean into exclusive HR extras 

According to our product managers, our most important mission is to focus on what small businesses and startups need – but we also want to differentiate ourselves from other products like Breathe, for example, by offering extras that they don’t have

  • Keep your finger on the pulse with engagement surveys – run regular engagement surveys and understand what your team wants and needs through surveys (pulse, monthly, yearly). Back it up by using research-based templates to find the right survey questions on different topics (remote work, DE&I, etc) or simply create your own. 
  • Find the right benefits for your team – at no extra cost, we offer a Perks platform that gives your team members access to offers at more than 30,000 brands (including Apple, BT, Tesco, HelloFresh and Trainline) and even discounted cinema tickets 
  • Get small business expertise for your HR challenges – rather than simply partnering with HR services across the UK to bring you the expertise you need, we have an in-house HR advice team that can help you build policies, review your employment contracts, deal with delicate issues such as redundancies and grievances, and offer advice whenever you need it. 
Jonathan Lindon

We were struggling to come up with benefits that everyone in our team would truly appreciate. Charlie’s Perks does exactly that and our team is really happy with it.

— Jonathan Lindon, co-founder @ Talent Heroes

Cons of using CharlieHR

We would be hypocritical if we didn’t openly display where we might not be the best fit for your business, so that’s why we’d like to be as transparent as possible so you can make an informed decision. CharlieHR might not be for you in the following situations:

Looking for more in-depth reporting 

We do have a reporting feature, and here are the items you can report on:

  • Payroll data 
  • Time off overview
  • Sick leave 
  • New starters 
  • Contact information report
  • Monthly, yearly and time off requests for all time 
  • DE&I reporting for our HR advice customers 

These reports can be very useful at a startup and small business level, and to be honest, they might be all you’re looking for.

Each can be viewed and filtered in our software and exported in CSV files, but if you’re looking for more complex reporting, you’d have to look somewhere else.

Needing shift management software

Some small businesses and startups need to create rotas and manage shifts. If you need to create rotas and make sure everyone has access to their shifts, we’re not the right fit for your business.

However, we do offer time off management to completely automate your team’s leave process.

Putting a high emphasis on culture 

We’ve made a conscious choice not to focus on gamification and customising of features, because we know that’s not a priority for small businesses and startups and that it takes more than a few fancy features.

So, if it’s really essential to your business, maybe your choice lies elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean, however, there’s nothing you can get out of Charlie. Think shoutouts, company handbook and customisable onboarding flow as a good start. 

Why is Breathe a good HR software choice? 

So what does Breathe have in store? Of course, this is based on our own research, and although we do strive to remove bias from it, we can’t hide the fact that Breathe remains our competitor.

Nonetheless, we do want to know our competitors like the back of our hand to make sure we offer software that’s better suited to small businesses and startups.

Pros of using BreatheHR

Data-driven insights with HR reporting and analytics

One feature that stands out from the rest is Breathe’s reporting capabilities. Although many small businesses and startups may not need such in-depth reporting in early stages, it’s there if that’s essential for yours.  

Importing crucial data into Breathe 

Avoid copy-pasting when it comes to your HR data. With Breathe, you simply have to import your existing data into a template file and upload it onto the software. This can save time for bulky items of data. There’s also a possibility to have it done by a concierge service – Breathe doesn’t mention, however, at what cost. 

    Extensive reports for data analysis 

    There’s more than just basic reports when it comes to Breathe, and you can, among others, run reports on the following: 

    • Sickness 
    • Finance
    • Time logs

    You can also have reports filtered by department, line manager, ethnicity or gender – all of them can then be combined into visuals to make it easier to report and inform stakeholders at your business without having to put it on a Powerpoint yourself. 

    Great for time off management, rota scheduling and time tracking 

    Managing time off with Breathe 

    Breathe, like many software on the market, offers a time off management feature in their Core plan. 

    It allows you to:

    • Plan your workforce’s holidays
    • Give your team members access to their allowance 
    • Have access to a calendar to see who is off and when 
    • Track any kind of absences such as sick days, parental leave, etc. 
    • Do it all from a mobile app 

    It’s a great add on if you’re looking for a solution on the go on top of the usual features you can get in time off management. 

    Putting together a rota for your small business 

    When it comes to creating rotas, not every software allows you to completely get rid of manual processes.

    That’s where Breathe differentiates itself from the rest. After all, rotas are one of the most time-consuming tasks managers have to face on a weekly basis – even though not all businesses will need a rota system.

    Ultimately, the rota, time and attendance feature from Breathe will be super useful for:

    • Businesses in the hospitality industry 
    • Agencies that need to track time to bill clients 
    • Customer service platforms 
    • Any jobs where flexible patterns are involved 

    Bear in mind, however, that as you grow and as your business expands, you might need to hire a rota or shift manager if that’s how your business operates a simple software won’t do the trick.

    Automating part of the process can significantly reduce time spent on it. It won’t keep you from having to build the rota yourself, but it will give you the opportunity to: 

    • Create a rota easily with drag and drop functionality 
    • Add roles and shift times as well as duplicate shifts 
    • Save your rota as a template to use at a later time
    • Record start and finish time with a punch clock software
    • Store timesheets securely
    • Share your team’s rota on the mobile app

    For an extra £19 per month per business, it’s possible for you to add rota, time and attendance to Breathe’s Core HR. This can, of course, add up quite quickly and become expensive as you grow, but it’s something you may consider if you’d like to get rid of more admin.  

    Breathe extras that you might be looking for

    Similar to Charlie, Breathe offers a few extras that we haven’t seen in other software and they might be what you’re on the lookout for. Let’s have a look at what they are. 

    Track your team’s expenses 

    To streamline your workflows, you can choose to track expenses with Breathe. This is a great way to have everything in one place and follow a simple process: 

    • Submit claims for reimbursement
    • Upload receipts related to the claim 
    • Submit for approval 

    This add-on is another £5 extra per month per business. 

    Get your training sorted 

    Many small businesses and startups struggle with understanding how to best train their team and make good use of their learning and development budget.

    In this spirit, Breathe put together a new module that can be a good opportunity to upskill your people.

    Through training management software, Breathe Learn puts together:

    • Compliance training – keep up to date with the latest legislation 
    • Soft skills training – among leadership, emotional intelligence, or running effective virtual meetings 
    • An easy way to track progress – simply assign courses and have a look at your dashboard to see whose completed it 

    This module is available for £19 per month per account. 

    Cons of using Breathe

    Through the research we regularly do and the audits we often run when it comes to our direct competitors, we’re able to spot where their software falls short of expectations.

    Here, we’ve tried to think about what small businesses and startups really look for that Breathe doesn’t offer at the moment.

    A clunky platform that’s difficult to get your head around

    Many customers who have switched from Breathe to CharlieHR report the same problem: the platform is too crowded, not intuitive and difficult to navigate.

    Unfortunately, a lot of customers have reported that the interface is not very easy to comprehend, and it often takes time and sometimes contacting customer support to understand how to take a simple action.

    It might seem like an aspect you can get used to, but in practice, that means you’ll:

    • Waste time trying to understand where and how your software works, adding another task to your growing list (contacting customer support for example)
    • Have to assist your team members when they use the platform and become their first point of contact for queries, making it difficult to get on with the rest of your work if someone needs helps

    An onboarding process that requires a lot of admin

    The onboarding process is one of the most crucial aspects small businesses and startups want to automate as they start to look at HR software.

    That’s why you should look at picking an onboarding feature that works smoothly and flawlessly with the rest of your HR stack.

    Gathering feedback from people who have decided to leave Breathe for Charlie, we quickly heard that their onboarding feature is not up to scratch. Here were the common complaints about it:

    • There’s a lot of admin involved when it comes to adding new team members to the platform 
    • Self-service is not very present, leaving a lot of admin to people responsible for HR rather than passing it on to team members 
    • It’s often necessary to get in touch with customer service and wait for them to help to implement new aspects of your onboarding process 

    So… Is Charlie really better than Breathe? 

    To be completely honest, it’s up to you to decide. We’ve presented you with our product, and we hope you’ll find it best suited for your small business or startup.

    However, and just to make it clear, here’s why we think we’re a better choice than Breathe:

    • We do our research – our product people spend hours every month speaking to small businesses and startups to understand what we can do better, building features and solving problems that are relevant to them. That includes speaking to people who have gone to another software, people who have joined from a competitor and people who have chosen not to sign up at all along with our own customers. 
    • We’ve been chosen by more than 11,000 small businesses and startups – we have proof that we’re already the perfect choice for businesses such as Bloom & Wild, Patch and Fiit
    • We’re transparent and straightforward – we will never hide any fee from you, and you’ll understand what you’re paying for thanks to simple pricing and software that you can use as soon as you sign up. 
    • We’re always here to help – our customer service team is one of the best out there, and they’ll go above and beyond to solve any issues you have with software. You can also have a look at our complete FAQs if there’s something you want to solve yourself. 

    Still unsure? Time to sign up for a 7-day free trial today. No commitment. No credit card required. 

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