UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd floated the idea at a party conference
The British government has denied companies will be forced to "name and shame" foreign workers as part of a move to encourage them to recruit local workers.
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced at the Tory party conference that a consultation would be launched on plans aimed at boosting the employment of UK citizens and reducing immigration in the wake of their vote to leave the European Union.
Among the measures was a plan to compel companies to reveal how many foreign workers they were employing, but this provoked an angry backlash from critics, including the British Chambers of Commerce and Ms Rudd's own brother.
Former Downing Street policy chief Steve Hilton described the plan as worse than Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's suggestion he would ban Muslims from entering the US.
Writing in the UK Sunday Times, he said ministers might as well have announced that "foreign workers will be tattooed with numbers on their forearms".
Former education secretary Nicky Morgan, speaking to Sky News, agreed with Mr Hilton that the idea was "repugnant".
"I was very surprised Amber Rudd put forward that proposal because that is not the Amber Rudd I know, " she said.
"The trouble with these sort of policies is they send out a message about the party, about the way we want to approach people coming to this country."
However, a British Home Office spokesman said it had never been the idea to publish the details of foreign workers, but simply to compile the numbers.
"This is not about listing foreign workers or so-called 'naming and shaming' of companies," he said.
"The proportion of international workers in a company is one of the pieces of information that companies may be asked to provide to the government.
"This information will not be published. This already happens in the US and is one of several proposals we will be consulting on as part of our work to ensure that companies take reasonable steps to recruit at home before looking to bring in workers from abroad."
Britian's Education Secretary Justine Greening said the government wanted to count the number of foreign workers being employed in the UK to inform policy.
"This is about informing policy so that we understand particularly which areas and parts of the country where there are skill shortages evidenced by the fact that employers are not taking local workers as much as they might do," she told ITV.