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May 1, 2013

Although most observers are praising CEO Marissa Mayer and Yahoo’s upgraded maternity leave policy that gives 16 weeks of paid leaves to new Moms and 8 weeks to new Dads, here’s another perspective: although it’s good, it’s not the most generous among Silicon Valley companies.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

The new policy will allow mothers to take up to four months of paid leave. Parents who adopt will be able to take eight weeks off from work.

Yahoo will also give new parents $500 to spend on baby items and related services. New pets will also get some freebies, Yahoo said. Employees can get Yahoo-branded gifts for their cats and dogs.”

Good but not great for Silicon Valley companies

But as Dan Nakaso points out in this story from the San Jose Mercury News,

Yahoo’s new policies for parents are hardly the best in Silicon Valley, which constantly seeks to attract and retain the brightest tech workers.

For instance Google, where Mayer worked before joining Yahoo, offers up to 22 weeks of paid leave for its new mothers, among several other perks for expectant Googler moms that include premium parking while they’re pregnant.

But Yahoo’s maternity and paternity policies are far more generous when compared with the rights of thousands of California workers who are only guaranteed partial salaries for maternity and paternity leave. Employees at small companies who take even unpaid time off to care for newborns also face the possibility of losing their jobs, said Netsy Firestein, executive director of the Berkeley-based Labor Project for Working Families. …

“In terms of the tech industry, 16 weeks (of maternity leave) for mothers and eight weeks for fathers seems to be the standard and that’s great. And it’s a great model for other employers to follow. But we lag grossly behind the rest of the world. Other countries offer six months to three years and Canada has almost a year. When there is paid parental leave, people come back to work in much higher numbers.”

Easing the angst over flex time decision

If nothing else, Yahoo’s new maternity leave policy seems to have helped dampen the angst and anger that erupted when Mayer decided to end flexible working arrangements for Yahoo employees earlier this year.

Marilyn Nagel, the CEO of Watermark, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit group that supports women in their careers and in their communities, told the Mercury News that, “I was quite concerned when the initial policy around working at the office came out that they were going to take a step backward in support of women.”

Now however, Nagel believes that these new Yahoo benefits “are a step in the right direction because we know that women tend to leave their jobs if there is not flexibility or other benefits to support them. The fact that Marissa is looking at other options suggests that she has done some research and is really looking to move Yahoo forward, in contrast to that other position that took Yahoo backward a bit.”

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