SUNNYVALE -- Seven months after giving birth and two months after she shook up the tech world by ordering employees to stop working from home, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is now offering female employees 16 weeks of paid maternity leave while new dads get eight weeks of paid leave.

For a couple working at Yahoo, the change in policy means new Yahoo moms and dads could have a combined six months of paid time off to bond with their new babies. They'll even get four months off combined for babies they adopt or foster.

Yahoo's new company perks include free Yahoo gifts for both babies and pets and reimbursements for employee laundry and housekeeping costs. But the maternity and paternity policies especially pleased Mayer watchers on Tuesday who shook their heads after she banned telecommuting and ordered employees back into the office.

"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," said Marilyn Nagel, CEO of Watermark, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit group that supports women in their careers and in their communities.

"This current new list of programs and benefits is 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."

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.

"Huge amounts of data show that it's really good for kids and for their brain development to have time to bond with their parents," Firestein said. "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."

Back home in India, Ajay Bhutoria and his wife, Vinita, would have been surrounded by family when Vinita gave birth to their youngest son, Yesh, in 2011.

But in California, Vinita could get only four weeks of paid maternity leave and took another 12 weeks of unpaid time off from her Silicon Valley tech job to care for Yesh, who developed medical problems.

"Most immigrants who live here don't have the family support of home, where we have grandmothers and brothers and sisters all living together," said Ajay Bhutoria, who runs Fremont-based Global Business Consulting Services. "For Yahoo this change in policy will get them new and brighter talent."

Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.