UK supermarket Tesco is hoping some of its staff will be granted “key worker” status so that the employees can afford to live in the expensive south east of England.

High house prices in greater London are leading to staff turnover problems at some of Tesco’s London stores. To help combat the problem, Tesco plans to build 3,000-4,000 full-price and affordable homes nationwide, above stores, over the next five years, reported BBC News Online.

The supermarket chain is in negotiations with local authorities regarding how the affordable homes are to be allocated.

“We are asking them in some areas to be considered as key workers… retail workers do not fit within the profile at the moment,” Katherine Edwards, corporate affairs manager, told the BBC.

The local authority is currently processing a planning application by Tesco for a development in Streatham, South London. Tesco wants to build a complex which will include a leisure centre, Tesco store and 250 homes, 40% of which will be for key workers and affordable homes.

If the local authority approves Tesco’s requests to have its staff recognised as key workers, some employees would be given priority to live in housing above the supermarket.

“Recruiting and keeping retail workers is quite a problem in London. The idea of them being considered as key workers would help us with staffing in London stores,” Edwards said.

The term “key worker” at the moment generally refers to public sector workers such as nurses, teachers and the police. Some business groups have been campaigning for a broadening of the definition, arguing that many workers, not just public sector workers, cannot afford the high house prices in the London area.

According to a recent report, sponsored by Tesco and the Housing Corporation, more than 10,000 homes could be built on supermarket sites in London.