In the present contribution we propose an optimal low-order versatile partial hybrid stress solid-shell element that can be readily employed for a wide range of geometrically linear elastic structural analyses, that is, from shell-like isotropic structures to multilayer anisotropic composites. This solid-shell element has eight nodes with only displacement degrees of freedom and only a few internal parameters that provide the locking-free behavior and accurate interlaminar shear stress resolution through the element thickness. These elements can be stacked on top of each other to model multilayer composite structures, fulfilling the interlaminar shear stress continuity at the interlayer surfaces and zero traction conditions on the top and bottom surfaces of composite laminates. The element formulation is based on the modified form of the well-known Fraeijs de Veubeke–Hu–Washizu multifield variational principle with enhanced assumed strains formulation and assumed natural strains formulation to alleviate the different types of locking phenomena in solid-shell elements. The distinct feature of the present formulation is its ability to accurately calculate the interlaminar shear stress field in multilayer structures, which is achieved by the introduction of the assumed interlaminar shear stress field in a standard enhanced assumed strains formulation based on the Fraeijs de Veubeke–Hu–Washizu principle. The numerical testing of the present formulation, employing a variety of popular numerical benchmark examples related to element patch test, convergence, mesh distortion, shell and laminated composite analyses, proves its accuracy for a wide range of structural analyses.Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.