Businesses in coronavirus hotspots will be on safer legal ground to mandate vaccines but the prospect of court challenges remain despite new advice.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has released updated information for employers after Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejected calls to indemnify businesses.
The ombudsman says in areas where no community transmission has occurred for some time, a direction to employees to be vaccinated is less likely to be considered reasonable
For businesses that need to remain open during lockdowns, community transmission makes mandatory workplace vaccinations more likely to be reasonable.
Senior cabinet minister Peter Dutton said the government would work with industries as major employer groups call for greater clarity.
“We are not going to force people down and jab them in the arm. That is not going to happen in our country,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.
Mr Dutton backed canned food producer SPC’s immunisation mandate and said restaurant owners could decide to deny entry to unvaccinated staff and patrons.
“That’s a decision for that owner to take and that is a perfectly reasonable one,” he said.
But he defended the lack of federal intervention, saying it was up to states to issue public health orders around vaccines.
A federal health department survey shows the proportion of Australians intending to receive a vaccine has soared over the past month.
About 79 per cent of Australians have been vaccinated or are likely to do so, up nine points from July’s results.
Concern over the pandemic has reached its highest level since September with 45 per cent of respondents worried about the situation.
Australia has vaccinated 24.36 per cent of its population aged 16 and above with 14.5 million doses administered.
The ACT on Thursday entered a seven-day lockdown after Canberra recorded four local cases, breaking a remarkable streak of more than a year without an infection.
Surging case numbers in NSW remain stubbornly high with 345 new local infections and two deaths reported in the past 24 hours.
Sydney and surrounding regions will be in lockdown until at least August 28.
Northwest NSW, Dubbo, Armidale, Tamworth, Byron Bay and the Hunter region are also under snap restrictions.
There were 21 new local cases in Melbourne where a lockdown has been extended until at least next Thursday.
Mr Morrison will on Friday chair a national cabinet meeting of state premiers and territory chief ministers with more than 12 million Australians in lockdown.
Leaders have set a goal of 70 per cent vaccination before some restrictions can start to be eased and 80 per cent for a major step forward in reopening.
National cabinet will receive an update on the vaccine rollout, the spread of the virus and the plan out of the pandemic.