Zero hours contracts are “unfairly demonised” and many employees on the contracts are more satisfied in their work than the average worker, new research suggests.

A study from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that 65% of UK workers on the contacts said they’re happy with their work-life balance, against 58% across the general workforce.

Around 80% of those who work on the contracts said they were never penalised if they were not available to work.

The study asked 2,500 adults, including 456 zero hours workers.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, said: “The use of zero-hours contracts in the UK economy has been underestimated, oversimplified and in some cases, unfairly demonised. Our research shows that the majority of people employed on these contracts are satisfied with their jobs.

“However, we also recognise that there is a need to improve poor practice in the use of zero-hours contracts, for example the lack of notice many zero-hours staff receive when work is cancelled.

“If this is unavoidable then employers should at least provide some level of compensation. In addition, it seems that many employers and zero-hours staff are unaware of the employment rights people on these types of working arrangements may be entitled to.”

A number of operators in the restaurant, pub and wider leisure and hospitality sector have been reported to use zero hours contacts.