Mandatory virus vaccines left to employers

Matt CoughlanAAP
Australian employers can direct workers to be vaccinated in lawful and reasonable circumstances.
Camera IconAustralian employers can direct workers to be vaccinated in lawful and reasonable circumstances. Credit: AAP

Bosses will be left to decide whether to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for employees under existing workplace and anti-discrimination laws.

Fair Work Commission advice says employers can direct workers to be vaccinated in lawful and reasonable circumstances.

Mandated vaccines are more likely to be allowed if employees work in high-risk environments like hotel quarantine or border control.

Compulsory immunisation for workers who have close contact with vulnerable people like health or aged care is likely to be reasonable.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said federal and state governments would not create special laws to guide mandatory workplace vaccination.

"We do not have a mandatory vaccination policy in this country. We are not proposing to have that. That is not changing," he told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

"But an employer may wish to make a reasonable directive to staff."

Mr Morrison said it would be up to courts to decide if it was reasonable for companies in retail, supermarkets and other essential services to mandate vaccines.

"Employers need to consider those matters very carefully if they are looking to make directions of that nature," he said.

Canned food producer SPC announced this week it would become the first non-health-related business to ban unvaccinated employees from the end of November.

More than 16 million people will enter the weekend under stay-at-home restrictions after Victoria joined Sydney, parts of regional NSW and southeast Queensland in lockdown.

There was a record 291 new local cases in NSW on Friday with health authorities bracing for higher numbers in coming days.

An unvaccinated woman in her 60s who caught the disease in a southwest Sydney hospital has become the nation's 933rd coronavirus death.

There were four more cases in Melbourne on the first day of a Victoria-wide lockdown slated to last seven days.

Southeast Queensland's restrictions could ease on Sunday after all 10 new local cases were linked to the existing outbreak.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted her state may never reach zero cases despite the national goal of suppressing the virus.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Sydney, which is under strict lockdown, needed a "circuit-breaker" to drive down case numbers.

Professor Kelly nominated improved compliance and policing people movement around NSW as ways to curb the disease's spread.

Mr Morrison said Sydney's lockdown needed to be effective after meeting virtually with premiers and chief ministers at national cabinet.

"It still remains our goal, particularly in the face of this rather aggressive Delta variant, to ensure that we suppress the virus while vaccination levels are where they are," he said.

Australia has fully vaccinated almost 21 per cent of its population 16 and over but continues to lag behind most of the world.

Mr Morrison also flagged the increased use of rapid antigen tests which are being used in major health services in Sydney.

"It is an important tool to be used at the right state of the process and it's being used right now in essential workplaces," he said.

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