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I have come across the following sentence,

"many people have been out of work this week"

Does it mean that many people were on leave? Or does it mean that people worked outside the office?

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    Being out of work usually means being jobless; out of a job. "Being not at work " may be used when you are on leave/vacation, etc.
    – Khan
    Feb 14 '18 at 10:11
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Leave or sick.

The phrase "out of work" implies not working, similarly "out of the office" also implies an absence of work, either from leave/vacation or sick. Short hand is to say they are "out".

This is a general phrase and encompasses all possible reasons to not be working.

To say that someone is working, but not in the office, then people tend to be more specific such as

  • Working from home
  • At an offsite
  • Working in the other building
  • With clients

"Out of the office" can be used to imply working "not in the office" but again, would probably come with specifics such as "out of the office, at client site". But "out of work, this week" is general and has a time constraint which strongly implies "not working.

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"Out of work" normally means unemployed, doesn't have a job. If you say, "Bob is out of work", that means he doesn't have a job.

"Out of work" can mean that one has done all the work that he has been assigned and is now available for additional tasks. Like, "Hey boss, I finished the Foobar project, so now I'm out of work. What should I work on next?" But this doesn't appear to be the meaning here.

If someone did not come to work because they are sick, we usually say "out sick" or "called in sick". If they are on vacation we say "on vacation" or "on leave".

I'd guess from the wording of the sentence that the speaker means that many people did not come to work for some reason, perhaps they are sick, or couldn't make it to the office because of bad weather, etc. But this isn't a common way to say this so one can only guess at the intended meaning.

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