Lawyers have reacted dismissively to government plans to force companies to list foreign workers in an attempt to control immigration.

Reports in the national media today said the Home Office plans to compel businesses to ‘be clear about the proportion of their workforce which is international’.

Addressing the Conservative party conference,home secretary Amber Rudd (pictured),  said she wanted to look again at whether the immigration system provides the ‘right incentives’ for businesses to invest in British workers.

But voices from the legal profession have questioned whether the measure is either workable or enforceable.

Philip Marshall QC, joint head of chambers at London set 1KBW, tweeted that he would refuse to comply with the instruction.

‘This is utterly abhorrent and has echoes from history that I find chilling,’ he added.

Such a measure could create problems for the UK’s big international law firms, which employ large numbers of foreign nationals in their domestic offices.

But Laurie Anstis, a director at Reading firm Boyes Turner, said the law already requires employers to register workers from outside the European Economic Area – and pointed out that the register of sponsors is a published document.

Michael Newman, a partner at national firm Leigh Day, said the proposal ‘smacks of race discrimination’, covering less favourable treatment of workers on the grounds of nationality.

Newman added: ‘What is unclear from the current proposals is how individual employees would be treated, given that the motivation is said to be to “pressure” employers into taking action.

‘Would it mean foreign workers would be more likely to be made redundant in order to improve the figures? Or just dismissed outright? Of course, the protection from race discrimination is currently underpinned by EU law; whether this will survive Brexit is questionable, especially if the current administration wants to continue taking a hard line on immigration.’

Luke Hutchings, partner at Taylor Rose TTKW, based in Peterborough, also questioned whether the government would actually act on its rhetoric.

‘Ms Rudd has been at pains to state that the list is only an idea which is being reviewed, and not policy, much less being a legal requirement which is enforceable. 

‘My own view is that these proposals will not be progressed, but they do evidence a renewed push on the part of the government to discourage employers from failing to recruit UK nationals to fill gaps in the workforce.’