Hundreds of thousands of Australians sacked during the coronavirus pandemic have been told to start looking for work.

Mutual obligation requirements such as attending job interviews came into force again on Tuesday for most of the unemployed.

Victorians will be exempt from the rules as the state endures extended lockdowns.

Sole traders and self-employed business owners will also be excused.

At first, welfare recipients won’t be penalised for failing to meet their obligations.

But federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash made it clear she expects job seekers to accept any offer of suitable paid work.

Anyone who refuses an offer of suitable employment without a valid reason will have their jobless benefit cancelled and may need to wait four weeks before reapplying for income support.

“The Australian government recognises this continues to be is a challenging time for those looking for work,” Senator Cash said.

“Our focus remains on getting people back into jobs and rebuilding our economy as quickly as possible.”

Mutual obligation requirements were suspended early in coronavirus pandemic due to strict social distancing rules and public health concerns.