By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Yahoo Inc has increased the amount of paid leave new parents can take, bringing the Internet company closer to the policies of some of its Silicon Valley peers from which it hopes to lure engineers.
The new policy marks the latest move by Chief Executive Marissa Mayer, who had her first child two months after taking over in July, to revamp the struggling Internet company. The 37-year old executive has been under a public spotlight that has placed her at the center of a growing debate about gender equality in the workplace.
A decision to ban Yahoo employees from working at home earlier this year sparked nationwide outrage, with some critics blasting Mayer for a policy they said would make life difficult for working parents. Media reports that Mayer paid to have a baby nursery built next to her office further fanned the flames of the controversy.
Under Yahoo's new policy, new mothers and fathers can take up to 8 weeks of fully-paid leave. If a woman gave birth to the baby, she is entitled to an additional 8 weeks of paid leave, for a total of 16 weeks paid leave.
Yahoo previously did not provide paid leave to fathers and the total amount of paid maternity leave varied from state to state, but was generally six weeks.
New parents will now also get up to $500 for expenses such as child care and laundry, Yahoo said.
The changes represent the latest move by Mayer to make Yahoo's perks and benefits more competitive with other large Web companies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since becoming CEO in July, Mayer has made the food in the cafeteria free for employees - standard fare at companies such as Facebook Inc and Google Inc - and has given employees new, high-end smartphones.
Yahoo's new paid leave policy may be much more generous than what is offered by many other employers in the United States, but Yahoo still is not in line with some of its largest competitors.
Facebook offers 16 weeks of paid leave to both mothers and fathers, along with $4,000 of "baby cash."
Google gives new mothers 18 weeks to 22 weeks of paid leave, while parents can take up to seven weeks of paid time off.
(Reporting By Alexei Oreskovic. Editing by Andre Grenon)