Shoppers and diners may have to be vaccinated before entering stores or restaurants after the workplace safety regulator allowed businesses to require their customers to show proof of immunisation.

The advice from Safe Work Australia, released on Friday, emphasises employers will generally not be able to compel their staff to get vaccinated and workers cannot use their colleagues’ failure to do so as an excuse to stay home.

Scott Morrison watched a simulation of the vaccination process at RPA in Sydney on Friday.Credit:Kate Geraghty

But industries where workers are at particular risk, such as hotel quarantine, and where they are caring for people vulnerable to the virus, may be able to compel vaccinations under existing laws that allow businesses to issue reasonable directions to their staff.

Results from a recent Australian Bureau of Statistics survey found the vast majority of Australians said they were willing to roll up their sleeves for the COVID-19 vaccine.

From Monday, quarantine and border staff, aged care residents and frontline health staff around the country will start getting their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine as phase 1a of the government’s vaccination program begins.

“We’re ready to go. That’s the clear message when it comes to rolling out this vaccine,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said following a visit to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s hospital vaccination hub in Sydney.



Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter said the Safe Work advice reinforced the government’s broader policy that vaccination should be voluntary.

“The government expects that the overwhelming majority of Australians will want to be vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones, and so they can get on with their lives without disruption,” Mr Porter said.

The Safe Work advice says it is unlikely that work health and safety laws require companies to ask their customers and visitors for proof of vaccination.

“However, you might still want to require this as a condition of entry to your premises,” the advice said. “Before you take action to impose this kind of requirement, you should seek advice as there may be privacy and discrimination issues that apply.”

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of the population were happy to get a COVID-19 vaccine if it was recommended for them, according to the ABS study.

The ABS asked 3104 people about their attitudes towards a COVID-19 vaccine in December, as part of their ongoing Household Impacts of COVID-19 survey.

It found men were more likely than women (76 per cent versus 71 per cent) to agree or strongly agree with getting a vaccine, as were people aged over 65 compared to those aged 18 to 64 (83 per cent versus 71 per cent).

But 12 per cent said they did not want to get a vaccine, with most of those people concerned about potential side effects or how effective the vaccine would be.

Mr Morrison said people will receive good care as they go through the vaccination process.

“I know for many this may be a very anxious process, and I think the plans here have taken that into account to reassure, to calm, to encourage, to observe, to make sure everybody’s OK,” he said.

“So you can feel confident, you can feel safe and you can bring your family.”

The Prime Minister said he will be getting his first Pfizer shot during phase 1a, as will Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly. State and territory leaders, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt and Health Department secretary Professor Brendan Murphy will all receive the AstraZeneca vaccine as it’s rolled out next month.

“These are all great vaccines, they’re not better than each other,” Mr Morrison said. “I think it’s important people understand it’s safe, and there’s no way I can say that more than rolling up my sleeve and getting the vaccination.”

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