Yahoo’s Mayer Extends Parent-Leave Benefits to Attract Staff

Yahoo! Inc. Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer extended paid-leave benefits for new parents as she seeks to revive growth by making the Web portal a more alluring place to work for in-demand employees.

New moms who give birth can take as many as 16 weeks paid leave under the new policy. The leave is as long as eight weeks for dads as well as moms who welcome a new child through adoption, surrogacy or foster-child placement, Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo said today in an e-mailed statement. Previously, the benefit applied only to women and lasted six to eight weeks, Yahoo said.

CEO since July, Mayer is using benefits to lure engineers and other staff who can help her speed recovery at a company that’s suffered from sagging sales and market-share losses. Concern about Yahoo’s flexibility arose in February when the company imposed limits on work-from-home arrangements.

“It’s damage control after taking a black eye in the work-from-home stumble,” said Erik Gordon, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Yahoo has to be the only public company in the world where the CEO spends his or her time toiling over work-from-home and paternity policies.”

Other new or improved benefits include reimbursement for expenses related to the care of a new child. Yahoo, the biggest U.S. Web portal, is also offering Yahoo-branded baby gifts, eight weeks of unpaid leave for employees who pass five-year milestones and even items for cats and dogs.

Work Benefits

“Over the last several months, we’ve introduced new benefits like free food to make Yahoos’ days easier, new smartphones to encourage innovation, and updated computers to speed productivity,” Yahoo said in the statement today. “Recently, we rolled out some new and improved benefits to support the happiness and well-being of Yahoos and their families.”

Mayer’s move comes as Yahoo vies for talent with other Web companies. Still, the new parental benefits at Yahoo fall short of those at rivals in some areas. Leave for birth mothers is shorter than at Google Inc., which offers 18 to 22 weeks, and the same length as that at Facebook Inc. Parents who don’t give birth can take up to 7 weeks at Google, including for surrogacy or adoption. Facebook offers four months of leave to all new parents.

Jackie Reses, Yahoo’s chief development officer, sent a memo in February asking employees with work-from-home arrangements to make their way to company offices, starting in June. Being side-by-side fosters collaboration and improves work “speed and quality,” she wrote.

The message resonated with academics who say opportunities to work together can bolster morale while sparking creativity. Even so, research suggests that at-home arrangements can make self-starters more productive and help managers attract employees who seek flexibility in how they complete tasks.

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