Businesses will not be forced to publish how many foreign workers they employ, but they may be asked to provide the information to the government, the Home Office has confirmed.

Home secretary Amber Rudd had come under fire from businesses, including c-store retailers, over proposals to make companies list the proportion of “international staff on their books”.

But over the weekend ministers appeared to row back on the plans. A Home Office spokesman said today: “This is not about listing foreign workers or so-called ‘naming and shaming’ of companies.

“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 This information will not be published.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.

“The purpose of having a consultation is so that we can listen to business and use that feedback to inform our decisions.”

Kishor Patel, who owns three Nisa stores and a restaurant in Bedfordshire, said employers should be free to hire who they choose.

“You need to employ the best people, and there’s not many employers deliberately going out to find cheap labour. At our restaurant people assume we only pay foreign staff a fiver but we’re paying them well above the minimum wage. The supply isn’t here.”

Jonathan James, owner of James Convenience Retail, which comprises 105 stores, cautioned against any extra bureaucracy involved in the plans.

“We do the due diligence already to ensure our employees are legal. We don’t care about nationality, as long as they’re legal to work in the UK. And it’s disappointing that there could be more paperwork,” he said.