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updated 5/8/2013 6:17:46 AM ET 2013-05-08T10:17:46

After taking flak for banning telecommuting at Yahoo in February and taking just a two-week maternity leave herself last year, chief executive Marissa Mayer has dramatically expanded the company's benefits for new parents.

Yahoo will now provide up to eight weeks of fully paid leave for both mothers and fathers. Mothers who give birth to the baby rather than adopting or using a surrogate will receive a maximum of 16 paid weeks. Under the old policy, new moms received only six to eight weeks of paid maternity leave, and Yahoo provided no paternity leave, according to Yahoo. What's more, Yahoo now plans to give new parents up to $500 to help with child-care expenses. By law, U.S. companies are only federally mandated to offer 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave.

The move appears to be part of an ongoing effort to revamp Yahoo's culture and compete with other Silicon Valley tech companies to lure top talent. Like rivals Google and Facebook, Mayer introduced free food in Yahoo's cafeterias. However, she caught heat several months ago for putting an end to employees' ability to work from home. Some employees felt they were more productive at home, while others criticized Mayer's new policy as unfriendly to working mothers.

The youngest CEO of any Fortune 500 company, 37-year-old Mayer is a new mother herself. She gave birth to her first child in September, just two months after taking the top job at Yahoo. Working from home during most of her two-week maternity leave, she set off a national debate about maternity leave standards.

While Yahoo's new parental-leave policy is a boon for working parents, at least two tech giants in the San Francisco Bay area offer even more generous benefits. Google allows new mothers to take up to 22 weeks of paid leave, while Facebook provides 16 weeks of paid time off for both mothers and fathers.

Related: 4 Reasons Telecommuting Can Be Bad for Business

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