May 1, 2013 10:41

Yahoo!'s CEO announces new paid leave policies for both moms and dads. Expectant parents wonder if other U.S. companies will follow suit.

The to-do list before the birth of a child is endless. For working moms (and dads) the anxiety of planning maternity leave can be a heart-wrenching task. Many companies in the United States offer a six- to eight-week (somewhat) paid maternity leave for mothers, but not all companies are created equal. Some mothers find themselves receiving only a percentage of their regular pay while on leave but continue to receive benefits, such as health insurance. For others, the time is available to stay at home with their new bundle of joy, but without a paycheck. And yet even more families rely on taking paid sick days or vacation time to supplement this leave of absence. Federal law protects families wanting to take leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act. The FMLA requires larger employers and public agencies to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave - as well as continuation of health benefits - for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a spouse, a parent or a child with a serious health condition.
Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, criticized for her own two-week maternity leave, changed company policy to boost morale.

Recently Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo!, came under harsh attack after only taking two weeks of maternity leave after the birth of her child. While away from the office for those two weeks, she continued to work from home. She received much public criticism and was perceived to set a bad example for working mothers.

Nine months later, Mayer has announced policy changes at Yahoo! related to maternity and paternity leave. Mothers and fathers can each take eight weeks of paid leave, while mothers have the option to take an additional eight weeks of paid leave. Yes, ladies, that's right -- if you worked for Yahoo! you could spend the first four months of your baby's life at home and not worry about how those bills will get paid and focus more on capturing every Kodak moment. In addition to the expanded maternity leave, employees will receive $500 for help with groceries, house cleaning or other baby needs.

Although Mayer recently eliminated telecommuting for work-at-home employees, this new leave policy is designed to restore happiness and well-being to Yahoo! employees and their families. Other Silicon Valley companies, such as Facebook and Google, offer comparable maternity leave benefit packages and even designated parking spaces for expecting mothers.

As a whole, the United States lags behind in offerings for new mothers and fathers. Countries like Canada offer about 50 weeks of paid leave with additional leave time for dad, while France offers 16 weeks at full pay. In the U.S., California is the only state listed with a paid leave offering of 55 percent of salary for eligible employees. For all other states, mothers and fathers rely on protection by FMLA. Do you know your rights? Does your employer? To learn more about the act and your legal rights, read more here.

INDfamily wants to hear from you. Readers, brag on a business that's  supporting new mothers and fathers with benefits packages during maternity (or paternity) leave. We'd love to hear who is making baby steps in the right direction.